Copyright + Fair use evaluator: Protect yourself!

Copyright laws are complex, so it’s not always clear when you are legally allowed to use materials and when you are not.

COPYRIGHT BASICS
(An excerpt from the University of Michigan http://www.lib.umich.edu/copyright/copyright-basics)

“Copyright is a form of legal protection that allows authors, photographers, composers, and other creators to control some reproduction and distribution of their work. There are several different rights that come along with copyright. In general, copyright holders have the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • Reproduce the work in whole or in part
  • Prepare derivative works, such as translations, dramatizations, and musical arrangements
  • Distribute copies of the work by sale, gift, rental, or loan
  • Publicly perform the work
  • Publicly display the work

These rights have exceptions and limitations, including the fair use provisions, which allows certain uses without permission of the copyright holder.”

FAIR USE
(from http://www.lib.umich.edu/copyright/fair-use)

Fair use “allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder for purposes such as criticism, parody, news reporting, research and scholarship, and teaching. There are four factors to consider when determining whether your use is a fair one. You must consider all the factors below, even though all the factors do not have to be in favor of a use to make it a fair one.

The four fair use factors are as follows:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work, such as whether the work is fiction or non-fiction, published or unpublished;
  3. The amount of the work used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, such as using a poem in its entirety, or using one chapter from a long book;
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for the copyrighted work.”

FAIR USE EVALUATOR

For assistance in applying these four factors to your own example, try using the Fair Use Evaluator, offered by the American Libraries Association Office for Information Technology Policy and Michael Brewer.

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