What Is Fair Use?

Many nations around the world have established personal rights as well as personal-property rights. Fair use is one of these. Law books and government records indicate that copyright refers to the right of a person to reproduce work that has been copyrighted, if that person is the holder of the copyright. This person may also authorize others to reproduce work.

Fair UseIn both cases, there are limitations as outlined in the code of laws of the government. In the United States, Fair Use is covered in several copyright-law sections. One specific section (Sec. 107) lists situations in which work may be reproduced that are considered “fair.” These include: comment and news reports, as well as for educational purposes and research.

Use of the work for these specific purposes is restricted by four factors: non-profit, education purposes or some commercial situation; what the nature of the copyrighted material; amount of the portion of work used; effect on value of the work. In most legal analysis, the law doesn’t contain specific numbers for words/lines allowed. Fair use does not include simply giving credit to the source.

Decisions on fair use are sometimes based on 1961 examples of how courts had interpreted the term. When laws were changed at that time, fair use was outlined as applying to quotations of small pieces excerpted from a work for reviews and criticism. In addition, short pieces of the work could be used in academic research and study.

News reports were also considered to be fair use as long as the amount of a printed work or recorded work was limited.

Fair use also extends to ideas that come from work produced by an author. The restrictions apply to actual words, lyrics etc. Attorneys and judges urge those who wish to use such material to get permission from the creator or copyright owner. This permission does not come from government agencies.

The doctrine of fair use is primarily based on the four factors mentioned earlier. If the use meets these criteria that use is deemed to meet the balancing test. There are other uses and references of this concept outside of the United States. For example, Israel’s laws include references to fair use. Several nations also include the concept of fair dealing in ways similar to fair use.

History records that the idea of copyright and fair use might extend back to the 1700s in England. Through the years the concept evolved and was refined to become fair use as we understand it today. One of the interesting factors involved in some cases focuses on material that is clearly owned and controlled by someone, even though it has not been formally published.

There references to the idea of using copyrighted materially in a fair manner during the Colonial period in the United States. In addition, a federal case in the 1840s was built on the doctrine of fair use. Piracy is one of the terms applied to unlawful use. This term has been used in the music industry in recent years to describe music used without permission.

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