The “Fair Use” Rule

Many people wonder if there are certain circumstances in which they can use the copyrighted work of another without permission. When it comes to using an entire work, or a significant portion, the short answer is no—you cannot use someone else’s work without their explicit consent. However, limited use of that work may be permissible given the circumstance under the “fair use” rule.

“Fair use” refers to the belief that the public should be able to take snippets of copyrighted work and use them for the purpose of commentary and/or criticism without having to obtain permission. However, it can be tricky when trying to determine when the fair use rule is applicable. Therefore, it is highly advised that you consult an intellectual property lawyer before using any copyrighted material. For a copyright attorney in East Bay, contact Armand M. Estrada.

The following examples generally follow under fair use:

  • A college professor photocopies an article from the local newspaper and hands them out to his students for a class discussion over the article.
  • A stand-up comedian parodies a movie by reenacting a small scene from the movie.
  • An internet user posts a 3 sentence excerpt from an online news source with a link back to the news site.
  • A college student quotes a statistic from a research study made public to support a theory she is writing about in a research paper.

The examples given above are not conclusive and only apply to works that have been published. If the creator hasn’t authorized the release of their work to the public, fair use no longer applies regardless of how the material is used. The purpose being that you are infringing on the copyright holder’s right to decide when their work will be published.

To be on the safe side, you should try to get permission from the creator of the work you want to use if plausible. If not, you should consult an East Bay copyright attorney to see if fair use may be applicable.

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