Copyright Law & PenaltiesThe Copyright Law (Title 17 US Code) limits the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works. Unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material may subject you to Criminal Penalties.
General Rule That Fair Use Is PermittedThe Copyright Act limits the rights of the copyright holder by allowing students, researchers and instructors to use, without express permission, copyrighted materials “fairly.” In determining whether the use of a work in any particular case is a “fair use”, you must consider the purpose and character of the use; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount of the copyrighted work; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The following examples detail application of these factors:
What is the purpose and character of the use?Different uses will have different purposes and/or characters, and the following scale gives examples of those differences:
Uses on the left tend to tip the balance in favor of fair use. The use on the right tends to tip the balance in favor of the copyright owner – in favor of seeking permission. The uses in the middle, if they apply, add weight to the tipping force on the left; they subtract to the tipping force of use on the right.
What is the nature of the work being used?The work to be copied can have different natures, and the following scale gives examples of those differences.
Again, uses on the left tip the balance in favor of fair use. Uses on the right tip the balance in favor of seeking permission. But here, uses in the middle tend to have little effect on the balance.
How much of the work will you use?
Uses on the left tip the balance in favor of fair use; uses on the right tip the balance in favor of requesting permission. If the first factor weighed in favor of fair use, you can use more of a work than if it weighed in favor of seeking permission. A non-profit use of a whole work will weigh someone against fair use. A commercial use of a whole work would weigh significantly against fair use. For example, a non-profit education institution may copy an entire article from a journal for students in a class as a fair use; but a commercial copy shop would need permission for the same copying. Similarly, commercial publishers have stringent limitation on the length of quotations, while a student writing a paper for a class assignment could reasonably expect to include lengthier portions.
If the proposed use were widespread, what effect would it have on the market for the original or for permissions?