The Fair Use Exception to the Copyright
In the United States, a copyright gives the author of a work certain protections, such as making it illegal to copy or utilize the work without the author’s permission. However, one exception to this rule is “fair use.” In the most basic sense, fair use allows the work to be used without the author’s permission when the use of the work meets certain conditions. For example, if a portion of a copyrighted work is being used for the purposes of news reporting, artistic criticism or nonprofit scholarly research, it’s likely to be considered fair use.
Section 107 of the United States copyright law sets out the following four factors to be considered when deciding if the use of a copyrighted work constitutes fair use:
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of 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.
The first factor essentially means that if the use of the work is an for educational or non-profit purpose, it’s more likely to be considered fair use.
The second factor deals with whether the copyrighted work serves a public interest, in which case it’s more likely to be considered fair use.
The third factor deals with how much of the original work is being copied or used; the less of the original work being used, the more likely it will be considered fair use.
The fourth factor considers what financial impact the use of the work will have on the author of the original work; the smaller the financial detriment the original work’s author receives, the more likely there is fair use.
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