What is fair use?
Fair use is an exception to U.S. copyright law that allows certain uses of copyrighted materials without permission of the copyright holder. These uses include commentary, criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research. Fair use provides a critical balance between the rights of the copyright holder and the rights of the public and protects the interests of both parties.
Why should I care?
Fair use allows you, the student, researcher, educator, journalist, or commentator, to use material without fear of repercussions (so long as that use falls within fair use doctrine).
What are the rules?
Fair use is largely decided by four factors:
- What is the character of your use? Does your use fall under criticism, parody, commentary, news, or education?
- What type of information are you using? You’re more likely to fall on the side of fair use if you’re using published, factual works.
- How much of the work will you use? Reproducing a work in its entirety would not be considered fair use, but quoting a passage or using a few seconds of video or sound might be.
- Will your use affect the marketability of the original work? If your use of the work will reduce sales of the work, then it does not fall on the side of fair use.
These four factors can be distilled down into two questions:
- Is your use of this work transformative? (Does the work contain new meaning, insight, or commentary?)
- Is the amount of material used appropriate? (What percentage of the work is being used? A few seconds/minutes/sentences?)
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