Copyright Safeguard

Copyright Safeguard™

Fair Use

Fair use is not always something that can be clearly defined. Fair use say’s you may borrow a small portion of someone’s content without their consent, but only if you stay within the perimeter of the law. The law was created to be expansive and not have a limited definition; because of this, it is a very fine line to walk when one starts to borrow content or expand on it without the original owners consent.

So let’s make this simple to understand. What can you actually do under Fair use? So very clearly 17 U.S. Code § 107 states what Fair use is.

Criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a Fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

So with all that being said how do you put that to practical use?

  • If you are reviewing the book of the week and quote a line or two from chapter three, and then follow that up with your thoughts on the authors fabulous creative abilities, or something along the lines that you do not think this author has any creative talent whatsoever that would most likely fall under fair use. In this sense you are believed to be critiquing the material and providing a service to the public.
  • Teachers are allowed to use some materials for nonprofit educational purposes. Many institutions of higher learning have strict rules in regards to copyrighting and fair use.
  • You may quote someone or borrow content if you are reporting the news as you are essentially informing the public. Keep in mind it must be brief.
  • Parody, is another way that is acceptable if it is done in a comical way that ridicules another’s work.

There are a few things to take into consideration.

While fair use does allow some freedom, there is a fine line. Should the content owner take issue with what has been used a court of law will look at what has been used, the importance of the content that has been used, and if it devalues the original owners work. Fair use does not guarantee what you do will not be misconstrued as infringement. So you need to be very careful and when in doubt it is always best, if possible, to gain consent from the original content owner.


- Researched and Written by Jennifer Stephan


Neither the author of this document nor the operators of this website are attorneys or accountants. The information presented here should be considered a general overview. This information does not constitute legal or financial advice.