Copyright FAQ: What Is Considered Fair Use?

When deciding whether you can use someone else’s work without permission, there are a number of factors that must be taken into consideration. One of the most important limitations to copyright protection is the doctrine of fair use.

By definition, the fair use of a copyrighted work for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research will not infringe a copyright.

The rationale behind the fair use doctrine is that society can often benefit from the unauthorized use of copyrighted materials when the purpose of the use is to educate or inform the public.

The fair use statute requires the courts to consider the following factors in deciding this issue:

·         The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

·         The nature of the copyrighted work;

·         The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

·         The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Although there is no bright line rule for determining fair use, there are certain situations that are more likely to result in a copyright infringement lawsuit. For instance, if you use a significant portion of somebody else’s work for your own commercial advantage or in a way that may offend the owner, there is a good chance that you may find yourself in court.

 

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