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Fair Use

A copyright owner is accorded many rights.  One of the rights is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies.  However, this right is subject to certain limitations.  One such limitation is the doctrine of fair use.

Section 107 of the Copyright Act contains a list of purposes for which the reproduction is considered for fair use.  Examples for such purposes are criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research.  The Section also sets out the following factors to be considered in determining a fair use:

  • whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work
  • The effect of the such use

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use.  Some of them are as follows:

  • quotation of excerpts in a review for a scholarly or technical work;
  • for illustration of the author’s observations;
  • use in a parody;
  • use in a news report;
  • reproduction by a library to replace part of a damaged copy; and
  • reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports.

It is advisable to avoid using copyrighted material unless the doctrine of fair use would clearly apply to the situation.  Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

Inside Fair Use