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What is fair use of copyrighted works?

On Behalf of | Aug 17, 2022 | Copyright |

Imagine a world where no one could use anything else belonging to someone else without payment or permission.

Think how it would slow down news reporting if they could never show an image of anything they had not taken themselves.

Imagine how a drama teacher in an underfunded school would struggle to put on performances if they had to ask for permission for every song or story they used. Or how scared the creatives of the future would be to produce work in case someone sued them for similarities to another idea.

U.S. law allows people to make limited use of copyrighted work

Providing they stay within limits. The term is “fair use.” Here are some factors a court would consider if a copyright owner took a complaint to them:

  • What is the material in question? You are much more likely to succeed in claiming fair use of artwork, literature and other creative things than of a set of instructions to make something.
  • How much of it was used? Did someone sample a snippet of your record, or did they copy your whole album?
  • Did they profit from it or use it to help people for free? A teacher using your script for Year 6 to entertain their parents can likely claim fair use. A company taking your product instructions to create something similar, which they then sell for thousands, is more likely in breach.

If you believe someone has gone beyond the fair use of your copyrighted work. Or, if someone accuses you of going beyond fair use of theirs, seek legal help to assess the situation and decide on the best way forward.