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What is Fair Use?

Fair Use. You see it all over the internet, especially in the disclaimers that accompany most of the fanvids posted on YouTube. Fair use is also something that is considered and used by many students when doing presentations or even when making artwork for class. People claim fair use all the time, but do they actually understand what is and isn’t considered fair use?

Unlike copyright, where it is rather cut and dry as to what falls under it, what is actually considered to be fair use is pretty vague. There are, however, four factors that are considered when determining if something falls under fair use; knowing these four factors could save you some legal troubles.

  1. How is the copyrighted work being used? Is it being used for commercial reasons, educational reasons, or perhaps transformative reason? While no one of these three will guarantee the work falls under fair use, noncommercial and transformative uses are more likely to be found fair.
  2. What is the nature of the copyrighted work? Is it nonfiction or fiction? Is it published or nonpublished? Copyright exists in part to encourage creative expression; therefore, use of a work that is nonfiction and/or published is more likely to be considered fair.
  3. How much of the copyrighted work is being used? Is the portion being used a vital part of the original work? Usually, using a smaller amount of the copyrighted work is considered to be fair use; however, if the portion used is deemed to be vital to the original work, it would not be.
  4. How does the use effect the market for or value of the original work? The court will consider if the new work has the ability to substantially harm the current or the future market of the original work, or if it already has. If the court finds the new work to have this ability or have already done damage in this respect, it will not be deemed fair use.

For more information on Fair Use Policy (or on copyright laws if you want to know about those), please visit copyright.gov.

2 Comments

  1. atowner wrote:

    Fair use is so tricky, particularly for students! I actually ran into an issue regarding fair use at work this week, and have been trying to explain these guidelines to my clients in many, many more words than you have here. This is very useful knowledge to have under your belt.

    Friday, March 9, 2018 at 8:46 pm | Permalink
  2. tcastane wrote:

    I wrote a paper about this for a previous class, and you pretty much hit the nail on the head. A lot of what fair use deals with is context based and very weird to define. It’s like walking on eggshells.

    Saturday, March 17, 2018 at 7:08 am | Permalink