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My Fair (use) Lady

Hello and hold onto your hats because today’s Word You Might Wanna Know is a biggie.

I’m talking about Fair Use.

And how to make sure Fair Use doesn’t FU (Do you get it? Fair Use initials? COME ON.)

In my best nerd voice, fair use is a doctrine memorialized in §107 of the Copyright Act that allows copyrighted materials to be used for certain purposes without constituting copyright infringement.

In my Friday night with a glass of Malbec voice, think of any time you’ve wanted to quote someone or borrow a concept from another entrepreneur or include someone else’s article, report, or statistic in your workshop. Yeah, all of those times? You need to consult and understand Mr. Fair Use.

So per the definition earlier, copyrighted materials can be used for certain purposes without constituting copyright infringement. Key words: certain purposes. So what purposes might those be, you ask?

  1. Criticism and comment (like a book review),
  2. News reporting (like if you have blog that reports on documented instances of fashion trends),
  3. Teaching (like if you have a workshop and you want to make multiple copies for student use),
  4. Scholarship and research (like if you’re doing an in-depth study on say boredom)

The bad news: courts use a very fact-specific analysis to determine fair use, and, unfortunately, going to court is the only way to know for sure whether your use is fair or not. (Oh, hey, Judge Judy!)

The good news: you can familiarize yourself with the four factors that courts consider to determine whether a particular use of copyrighted material is fair use or not.

  1.  The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit or educational purposes;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work, (whether it is fictional or fact based and whether the original work is published or unpublished);
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; i.e., how much of the work is being used? Has someone copied 90% of the work, or is it just a small quote that’s being used? Has the person copied the most important parts of the work?
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work; i.e., is the use preventing the creator from making money from the work?

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