Fair Use and Copyright Law

The protection of intellectual property is a basic tenet in the U.S. legal system. The courts have long recognized that the creators of material eligible for copyright protection invest a great deal of time, effort and money to generate these ideas of the mind. They have a right to protect the commercial value of these ideas from theft or abuse by others.

A copyright can apply to artistic works, literary works, inventions, names, slogans, images, symbols, and designs that are, or are intended to be, used in commerce.

Intellectual property works generate public discourse by their very nature. People like to talk about newspaper articles, books, magazines, directories, movies, video games, and other commercial products that are covered by copyright laws.  The question then becomes, how much of the original work can be used by others without interfering with the legal rights of the copyright holder?

The “fair use” doctrine, contained in Section 107 of the copyright law, answers this question by identifying four factors that can be used in evaluating if a use is considered to be fair:

1.       Whether the usage is for commercial or educational purposes
2.       The nature of the original copyrighted work
3.       The portion of copyrighted material being referenced in relation to the whole
4.       The impact of the use on the value or market potential of the copyrighted material

These fair use guidelines can be difficult to interpret, which is why it is important to speak to a trained copyright attorney about your intended usage. Citing the original work itself is not always sufficient to qualify for protection under fair use laws, and your intellectual property attorney can provide guidance in compliance matters.

Gaining permission from the copyright owner to reference their work is the best approach to protect yourself against charges of copyright violation.


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This entry was posted on Monday, April 12th, 2010 at 9:13 pm and is filed under Business & Corporate Law, Intellectual Property. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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