An antidote to copyright “pain”

Celebrating Fair Use Week 2016

ARL-FairUseWeek-White-LogoIt’s Fair Use Week! For students, faculty, and researchers, this is reason to celebrate, because fair use provides an essential safety valve that allows for use of copyrighted works without obtaining permission.

Fair Use is a remarkably short and comprehensible piece of copyright law which reflects the need for copyrighted works to be available for all to be used for “purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching… scholarship, or research.”

The statute lays out a “four factor test” for determining whether a use is “fair,” and therefore not a copyright infringement. We are all empowered to use this test when deciding whether we can use someone else’s copyrighted work without seeking permission. The four factor test is flexible and avoids bright line rules. It includes: the purpose and character of proposed use; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion used; and the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the work.

If you are looking for a way to remember those four factors, it may help to think of how fair use removes the “pane” (pain) of copyright law, based on analyzing the:

  • Purpose (of your use)
  • Amount (used)
  • Nature (of the work)
  • Effect (on the market)

To learn more about fair use and the four factor test, see the following MIT Libraries resources: