Fair use is the belief that portions of copyrighted material should be able to be used by the public for certain defined purposes.
Copyrighted material used for commentary, criticism, and nonprofit educational purposes is general included in fair use. These purposes generally keep using portions of copyrighted material in the realm of fair use and out of question for copyright infringement.
Copyright law put limitations on what is considered fair use in sections 107 through 118 in Title 17 U.S. Code.
Following are four factors that are considered in determining whether or not use of copyrighted material is considered fair use.
1. The purpose and character of the use.
2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
3. The amount of the portion used in relation to the whole copyrighted work.
4. The effect of use upon the potential market.
Fair use is normally brought up when discussing commentary and criticism of a copyrighted work. Although there are no clear, definitive terms for fair use, courts have regarded some activities as generally included within the spectrum of fair use.
These activities include:
Reviews of works, use in educational settings, quoting in news articles, parodies of works, and reproduction of a work for judicial proceedings.
Laws governing fair use are open to interpretation in court cases stemming from debate over what does and does not qualify for fair use. There is no way to guarantee that an activity will or will not qualify as fair use because each user and copyright owner may have a different opinion of what qualifies.
Legal problems usually arise from the activity in question causing the copyright owner to lose money, or from the activity offending the copyright owner. Lawsuits stemming from these issues are usually brought to court for a determination on fair use to be made.
Hiring an attorney experienced in copyright law is the best way to fight a case involving a fair use lawsuit. Because of the grey area of what does and does not constitute fair use, a copyright law attorney will be able to navigate the difficult legal statutes and proceedings of fair use cases.