Doctrine of Fair Use

Fair Use in Copyright Law

The doctrine of fair use is an essential element of copyright law that allows for the use of copyrighted works under certain circumstances. It is defined in §107 of the copyright law.

Affirmative Defense

– Fair use is considered an affirmative defense, meaning that it can be raised as a defense against a claim of copyright infringement.

Four-Part Test for Fair Use

There is a four-part test used to determine whether a particular use of a copyrighted work qualifies as fair use:

1. Purpose and Character of the Use: This factor considers whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes. Transformative uses that add new meaning or context to the original work are often favored.

2. Nature of the Copyrighted Work: The nature of the copyrighted work is evaluated. Highly creative works may receive stronger protection than factual or informational works.

3. Amount and Substantiality: The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole is examined. Using a small or non-central portion of the work may be more likely to qualify as fair use.

4. Effect on the Potential Market: The impact of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work is considered. If the use negatively affects the market for the original work, it may not be considered fair use.

Case-by-Case Determination

– Fair use is determined on a case-by-case basis. Courts assess each situation individually, taking into account the specific facts and circumstances of the use.

In summary, the doctrine of fair use allows for the use of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education, and research under specific conditions. The four-part test helps guide courts in making determinations about whether a particular use qualifies as fair use.

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