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Fair Use

The reasonable limits of copyright protection

There are limitations on copyright protection. The Copyright Act allows " fair use" of copyrighted materials for three purposes:

  1. Creative fair use by authors who copy from other works to create their own work.
  2. Personal fair use by individuals who copy from works for their own learning or entertainment.
  3. Educational fair use by teachers, scholars, and students who copy for teaching, scholarship or learning.

There are four factors that determine whether a use is fair:

  1. The purpose of the use. — Is it for commercial or non-profit educational use?
  2. The nature of the work. — Is it a creative work, a compilation, or a derivative work?
  3. The amount used in relation to the work as a whole. — The greater the amount used the more likely the use will infringe on the owners' right of duplication.
  4. The effect of the use on the market or potential market for the work. — The greater the market impact the less fair the use.
Example of Fair use Theft
You bought a CD and want to make copies of a song to use in a presentation.

Fair use because: You already paid for the CD. You are using the song one time only. You aren't profiting monetarily from the presentation.
You bought a CD and want to make a copy of a song to use in a play — you will be charging at the door.

Not fair use because: You will profit from the venture. The composer of the song is due royalties.
Your professor wants you to read an article from a 1985 magazine. She puts it on reserve in the library for your class to read.

Fair use because: The magazine is no longer sold, so you couldn't buy a copy even if you wanted to. If the professor didn't put it on reserve, students would still read the library's copy.
The required textbook for your class is very expensive. You pool your money with your classmates, buy one copy of the book, and make photocopies of it for everyone else.

Not fair use because: The author of the book is getting (almost) nothing for his work. The book is in print and available for purchase. What you have done is not that different from walking into the bookstore and stealing twenty copies of the book.
You're creating a Web presentation for your philosophy class on ethics and you've found this 'Far Side' cartoon that gets across your point perfectly. You scan in the cartoon and upload it to your presentation page in your WebCT class site.

Fair use IF: It's in a password-protected class Web site where only students enrolled in the class have access to it for the duration of the class. It is a one-time use, then it is deleted.
You're doing a Web site on your favorite cartoons. You include your all-time favorites.

Not fair use because: You have just made the cartoonist's products freely available to the entire world. A cartoonist's livelihood depends on people paying to see these in newspapers and books. Do you feel lucky? Because you might just get a call from the cartoonist's lawyers.

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