Fair Use Law

by Howard B. Richman

Fair use provisions of the copyright law allow for limited use or  distribution  of copyrighted material without the author’s permission.  Examples  of fair use of copyrighted materials include quotation of excerpts  in a review, news reporting, research,  or copying of a small part of a work by a teacher or  student  to illustrate a lesson.

There is a gray area as far as how MUCH material be copied and still be considered “fair use.” There are four guidelines that are usually considered in these cases:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes. Generally, if it is for nonprofit, educational or personal uses, it is considered fair use. If it is for commercial use, then it is not.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work. If what is being quoted is factual, then it is more likely to be fair use.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work. If the copyright owner cannot be determined, then it is considered fair use, but if the material infringes on the copyright owner’s sales, then it is not.

For more information on Fair Use Law, please click here.