Fair Use Explained

Copyrights are an important form of protection that prevents other parties from using your intellectual property for their benefit. It is important to know, however, that this protection has limits. Fair use is a principal that limits how a copyright can be enforced. Understanding this principal is necessary for knowing how your protected works can still be used without your permission, giving you a better idea of when you need to act to protect your copyright and when you don’t.

Explaining Fair Use

In copyright law, the concept of fair use allows protected content to be used by other parties in certain cases. The following are scenarios where the fair use exception may be applied:

  • Research – Copyrighted content can be used by other people when doing research on the same or a related topic.
  • Scholarship – Similar to research, but often without a specific goal in mind for its use. For example, one could use copyrighted material when performing an academic study on a subject.
  • Parody – This covers changes made to copyrighted material for comedic effect — for example, the parody songs of Weird Al Yankovic.
  • Criticism – Copyrighted material is still subject to criticism in various forms. One may, for example, cite areas of a popular book when writing a critical review without fear of legal action.
  • Journalism – Journalists generally have a lot of freedom when it comes to writing about a topic, even if the topic includes copyrighted content.

Understanding the Fair Use Defense

Fair use is often offered as a defense when someone gets sued for copyright violation. The court will look at multiple factors when deciding how to rule, including the purpose and character of the material’s use, the amount of the material that was used, the effect (if any) on the market caused by this use, and more. A good copyright attorney can help you argue for or against this defense as needed to protect yourself.

Protecting Legal Rights

Whether you are the holder of a copyright that has been violated, or you are being accused of copyright violation, the fair use principal may be an important factor in your legal case. Contact IGC to schedule a consultation and get the legal representation you need.

Written by Integrated General Counsel

Our focus includes handling a variety of corporate matters and also includes litigation in state and federal courts. Our current practice includes providing transactional services and representing a variety of small and medium-sized companies as their outsourced general counsel.