“Can I upload” copyright flowchart (Photo credit: giulia.forsythe)
It may be surprising to know that the Copyright Law does not directly protect the creative works of authors, inventors, filmmakers, artists and photographers among others, but is rather meant to promote the progress of science and useful arts.
In a way, the Copyright Law’s priority leans towards the benefit of the public and at some extent may seem unfair to the copyright owner. Although, among the exclusive rights given to the owner is the legal reproduction of his or her work. The right to authorize other parties to reproduce is also accorded to the owner.
However, in Title 17, US Code sections 107 through 118, this right becomes subject to limitations, one of which is the Fair use Clause.
What is Fair use?
The Copyright Act does give copyright holders the exclusive right for his/her work’s reproduction but it’s only in effect for a limited period. After that copyright term expires, the Fair use applies.
The Fair use allows other people, the consumers in particular, the right to copy the “owner’s” work without due permission. That is to say, the creative work (i.e. movies, music, literature, etc…) enters into the public domain and is then available for unlimited use.
But because of easy Internet access, free downloads, and the obtainability of CD/DVD-ripping software and other related applications, the need to wait for the copyright term to expire is often ignored. When this happens and you get caught, the only way to settle the validity of Fair use (in your case) is to have it resolved in a federal court.
When is Fair use really fair?
When the Copyright Act gets violated, with fair use on the defensive side, judges resort to resolving the dispute through these four factors:
On April 21, 2011, social media giant YouTube, invited CIS Fair use experts from Stanford Law School to answer some questions about the subject. The points discussed below focuses on the experts’ response.
Purpose of use – The motive behind why the copyright act was violated is considered the primary indicator of fair use. The most common purposes include commercial, educational and non-profit.
When copying a copyrighted work, or even a portion of it, it’s advised that you use the material to create something new. The CIS Fair use experts suggests asking yourself if value was added by creating new information, aesthetics, insights, and understanding.
Nature of the Copyrighted work – You will have a stronger fair use case if you copied your material from factual, published works such as biographies.
Amount and sustainability of the portion taken/copied – Again, according to these experts, “The less you take, the more likely that your copying will be excused as a fair use”. Just make sure it’s not the heart (the most memorable aspect/s) of the copyright owner’s work you’re copying.
Effect on the target market – Depriving the copyright owner of his/her income will most likely trigger a lawsuit. It’s an important factor in fair use. You have to be careful that by copying the owner’s work you don’t hurt his/her potential market.
According to Section 107 of Title 17, US Code,
reproduction of a copyrighted work may be considered fair if used in news reporting, research, comment, criticisms and teaching.
For more information about Fair use and the Copyright Law in general, visit the
U.S. Copyright Office site.
Author Bio: Karrie Morton is a law student at the University of California Irvine and a part time freelance writer, he writes for Integrity Legal Corp., offers Litigation Supports services in Orange County. You can connect with Karrie through her social media accounts. Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest