Fair Use

  To ease the conflict between “scholarly growth” (science) and the copyright owner's rights, the law includes a right of fair use which allows limited copying without consent.  The limits of fair use are not well defined, intentionally left so by Congress.

   While fair use is very applicable to scholarship and research, it may also be applied in other applications where the use of pre-existing and copyrighted materials is appropriate.

   Fair use is a privilege that is also a source of confusion. The statute is ambiguous, fair use depending on each case's circumstances. Four factors are considered:

  • Purpose of the use, including non-profit educational use
  • Nature of the copyrighted work
  • Amount of copying
  • Effect of the copying on the potential market for, or value of, the original work

   Most universities and libraries have fair use policies for activities such as copying materials for research or for classes. Few guidelines exist for fair use of materials in other environments, such as business presentations or training. Legal challenges to the fair use of materials in such situations is not often seen in court and the costs of litigation and attorney fees would often be prohibitive.  However, it is very conceivable that businesses where copyright infringement occurs could be a tempting target for infringement suits.

Updated Sunday, 11. October 2009, 14:23
by Michael Goad (

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