copyright and fair use

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What Is Fair Use?

Fair use is an affirmative defense that can be raised in response to claims by a copyright owner that a person is infringing a copyright. Fair use permits a party to use a copyrighted work without the copyright owner’s permission for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. These purposes only illustrate what might be considered as fair use and are not examples of what will always be considered as fair use. In fact, there are no bright-line rules in determining fair use, since it is determined on a case-by-case basis. But copyright law does establish four factors that must be considered in deciding whether a use constitutes a fair use. These factors are:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit 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 one factor or another may weigh more heavily in a fair use determination, each of the factors must be considered and no one factor alone can determine whether the use falls within the fair use exception. However, the factors that are usually the most influential are the first and fourth factors. More