Fair Use

Explained by Common Craft
In some cases, copyrighted materials like words, music, artwork or photographs can be used without permission, if that use is “Fair” and does not harm the copyright holder. This video explains the basics of Fair Use and the four major rules that should be considered.
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Video Transcript:

When a creative person creates something like a song, short story, photo or painting, they own that work by default and can control how it’s used by others.

This is because of copyright law. This law means that most works cannot be used by others without permission from the owner. While this system can help copyright owners earn money from what they create, it can also prevent uses that could be valuable to society.

For example, should a teacher need explicit permission to use a copyrighted photo in his class? Should a columnist need permission to quote a copyrighted book when reviewing it?

Copyright law allows for some flexibility in the use of copyrighted works without permission from the owner. This is called Fair Use and it’s not a black and white issue. It represents a gray area that relies on judgment more than specific rules.

Fair use is really focused on fairness between two parties: the copyright holder and the user. Fair use laws are designed to designate what kinds of uses are fair to both parties and which ones are unfair to the copyright owner, or may cause them harm.

There are four factors that help decide when a use may be considered fair use and not copyright infringement.

The first is the purpose and character of the use. If the work is used in non-profit situations and/or in education, research, news or critique, it’s more likely to be considered fair use. Commercial use is rarely considered fair use.

The second factor is the nature of the original work. If the work is factual and published it’s more likely to be fair use. The opposite is true if the work is fictional and unpublished.

The third factor is the amount of the work used. Here, smaller is better and proportion matters in uses that may be fair. For example, a newscast might use three seconds of a four-minute song and the use may be fair. It also matters if the part of the work used is substantial or representing the heart of the work, like the chorus of a song. If so, it may be unfair. Smaller, less substantial uses are more likely to be fair use.

The fourth factor is market value. If use of the work may impact the copyright owner’s ability to earn income now or in the future, it may not be fair use.

An additional and recent consideration is Transformative Use, which means the work is used in a completely new or unexpected way with a new expression, meaning or message.

An example is parody. Here, if a TV show uses a scene from a movie that makes fun of the original, it’s a parody and may be considered a transformative use that’s fair.

It’s important to remember that fair use is a gray area and each situation is different.    

To avoid copyright infringement, analyze how closely your use of a copyrighted work matches the four factors above along with transformative use. If you’re not sure, don’t hesitate to contact the copyright owner with questions.



What it teaches:

It’s more important than ever for students to understand intellectual property and how to avoid copyright infringement. By understanding Fair Use, students can avoid infringement and evaluate situations in which permission from the copyright holder is not likely to be required. It teaches:

  • Why Fair Use exists and makes sense
  • What it means when a use is “Fair”
  • Four ways to evaluate whether a use is fair or not
  • What represents transformative use
  • What to do if you are unsure if your use is Fair Use

Video Info:

  • Duration:  03m 38s
  • Captions Available:  YES
  • Lesson Plan:  YES
  • Category:  Technology
  • ISTE Standard:  Digital Citizen, Indicator 2c
  • ACRL Info Literacy Frame:  Information Has Value

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