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Copyright: Fair Use

An overview of US Copyright Law.

Fair Use Doctrine

Fair Use refers to the conditions in which one may use a copyrighted work without receiving permission from the copyright owner. Fair Use allows for commentary, criticism, and parody.  There are four factors when evaluating if something applies to the fair use doctrine.
  • Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
  • Nature of the copyrighted work.
  • Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  • Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Four Factors of Fair Use

1.Purpose and Character of the Work

This factor examines whether or not a work is being used for commercial or non-profit purposes.  If the work is being used for non-profit purposes, there is a better chance that the work is being used under Fair Use. 

2.Nature of Work

This factor refers to whether or not the work is factual in nature.  One typical example that is given would be biographical information.  This type of information would be allowed under Fair Use because it is something factual as opposed to an original work.  If the facts come from a published work, it is more likely it would be covered under Fair Use.

3,Amount of the Work

This factor evaluates how much of the copyrighted work is used.  The less amount used, the better the argument to defend its use under Fair Use.  If you use the entire novel, short story, movie, it is hard to defend Fair Use.

4.Effect on the Work's Market or Value

This factor evaluates if your use of the copyrighted work affects any revenue or market value of the product.  For example, if someone makes copies of a pamphlet for an organization, that impacts the revenue that the copyright holder may make. 

Fair Use

Fair use allows users of copyrighted works the right to exercise without permission some of the rights normally reserved for copyright owners. This concept is used as a defense in a court of law. Determining what might be considered a fair use in court can be an uncertain process, but these tools can assist you in assessing your use of a copyrighted work.

Fair Use Checklist - Columbia Copyright Advisory Office - Developed by Kenneth Crews and maintained by the Copyright Advisory Office at Columbia University, this checklist can assist in evaluating whether or not a use of a copyrighted work might be considered a fair use.

Fair Use Evaluator - Developed by the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy, this interactive tool can help assist in evaluating whether or not use of a copyrighted work could be considered a fair use under U.S. Copyright Law.

What's Covered? By Visual Connections Blog