What is fair use and how might it affect me?
The copyright laws within the United States allow for the "fair use" of copyrightable works. The Fair Use Doctrine was originally designed to permit use of such works in criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching or research. There is no clear-cut set of guidelines for what is fair use and what isn't. Each case must stand on its own merits. 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 such as:
use of a photo that was part of a collection as part of a review of that collection;
use of a photo as part of a scholarly analysis of the photo; or
reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson.
According to the Copyright Law, §107, Limitations on Exclusive Rights: Fair Use, four factors determine whether or not a particular use is fair, including:
the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for non-profit, education purposes;
the nature of the copyrighted work;
the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
For more information on fair use, obtain publication FL102 from the Copyright Office.