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Fair Use

When using someone else’s work there’s a thing called fair use:

Fair use is a copyright principle based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism.

Basically, it’s what gives you permission to use small quantities of someone else’s work, legally. But, what constitutes fair use?

Unfortunately, the only way to get a definitive answer on whether a particular use is a fair use is to have it resolved in federal court. Judges use four factors to resolve fair use disputes, as discussed in detail below. It’s important to understand that these factors are only guidelines that courts are free to adapt to particular situations on a case‑by‑case basis. In other words, a judge has a great deal of freedom when making a fair use determination, so the outcome in any given case can be hard to predict.

The four factors judges consider are:

  • the purpose and character of your use
  • the nature of the copyrighted work
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market.

I won’t pretend to understand this completely, but I’m going to start compiling resources on copyright to help clarify this for myself and others. If you have something to share, please add a comment.

About Sandra Fernandez

Sandra Fernandez is a professional communicator, tech enthusiast, book lover, and blogger. You can find her main blog at SandraSays.com and more of her writing at HispanicHouston.com.

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