Copyright laws are designed to protect intellectual property—like photos, music, and videos—from being used without the express permission of the author or artist. However, there is a very narrow exception to copyright law known as “fair use.” The definition of fair use is limited and subjective, so it’s important to have a good understanding of fair use, always follow copyright laws, and err on the side of caution.
In general, courts have noted that use of copyrighted material is typically permitted when it is used for the purposes of:
However, even when copyrighted material is used for these purposes, copyright infringement still can occur under certain circumstances.
Plenty of gray area exists when it comes to fair use because there are no specific guidelines for how much of a protected work can legally be used without permission. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, courts generally will consider:
Courts will also typically examine whether the original author was credited for producing the copyrighted material. However, simply crediting the original author alone will not protect against an infringement claim.
Since it is often difficult to determine whether the fair use exception applies, it’s best to take one of the following actions before using copyrighted material:
In some cases, it is best to simply avoid using the protected material. Consult with a local attorney for more specific guidance on copyright issues.
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