Certain uses of copyrighted material may not require the copyright owner’s permission. In the United States, this concept is known as fair use. Some other countries have a similar concept known as fair dealing.
Whether or not a certain use of copyrighted material constitutes a fair use is ultimately determined by a court of law. Courts analyze fair use arguments by looking at four factors:
- The purpose and character of the use.
- How is the original work being used, and is the new use commercial? Transformative uses add something to the original work: commentary, criticism, educational explanation or additional context are a few examples. Transformative, non-commercial uses are more likely to be considered fair use.
- The nature of the copied work.
- What is the copied work itself? Is it factual (example: a record of a historical event) or fictional (example: a novel or Hollywood blockbuster)? Use of factual works weighs in favor of fair use.
- The amount and substantiality of the copied work.
- How much of the work was copied? Copying short excerpts is more likely to be found fair use than copying an entire copyrighted work.
- The effect on the copied work’s value.
- Will the copying harm the potential market for the copyrighted work by effectively creating a substitute or replacement for that work? If so, the use is probably not fair use.
Fair use determinations are made on a case by case basis, and there is no clear formula to determine whether a use may be found to be fair. If you are unsure whether a particular use of copyrighted work might be a fair use, you may want to seek legal advice. X is unable to advise whether your use may be considered fair use or not.
For more information on fair use: