Fair Use Under Copyright Law

Fair Use Under Copyright Law: What You Need to Know

Fair use under the copyright law is one of the most important aspects of copyright. Fair use allows the limited use of anything which is copyrighted without taking the permission of the real owner of such copyright. This concept is important for educational institutions, researchers and other form people. If you know fair use, then you can save yourself from legal problems like infringement etc. In this article, we will discuss fair use under copyright law.

What is Fair Use?

Fair use is a legal concept which allows a person to make limited use of copyrighted material for different purposes. These purposes could be related to research, news reporting, criticism, comments, teaching and many more. The term fair use changes its meaning from case to case by considering several factors to find out whether a particular use of copyrighted material is fair use or not.

Factors of Fair Use (FU)

There are mainly 4 factors which show where the copyrighted material was infringed by a person, or it is just a fair use. These factors are:

Purpose and Character of the Use

Transformative use

If you are adding more value or new meaning to the original work or the creator by adding your expression or something more unique, then it is considered fair use.  For example, if you modify the lyrics of a song and add your wording and voice to make it sound funny, then it will not be considered an infringement.

Non-commercial use

The use of copyrighted material for personal use or educational purposes where your intention is just to provide the knowledge to others comes under fair use. For example, if you are a teacher in a school and you took the printout of some pages from the book which is protected under copyright law and now you are using these printouts for classroom discussion comes under FU.

Nature of the Copyrighted Work

Factual or Fictional

The use of factual work is considered fair use but there might be problems with using the work which is fictional like the copyrighted novel etc.

Published or Unpublished

You can use the work which is already published by the creator by giving him the credit but if the work is unpublished and you are still using this, then it will not come under fair use.

For example, quoting a fact from a news article is more likely to be fair use than quoting a significant passage from a novel.

Amount and Substantiality

Quantity used

If you are using a small part of a work protected under copyright law will be considered FU. However is nowhere written that the amount of part is considered as r use or infringement which means that it depends on from case to case.

Qualitative use

Sometimes, it may happen that you have used a part of the copyrighted material which was the core of that part, then it could not be considered FU.

For example, using a little part from a movie can be considered FU but using the famous scene or plot-revealing scene from that movie might not come under the concept of FU.

Effect on the Market

Market Harm

If you are using something which is copyrighted by the creator and your use is reducing the sales of that product in the market it will not be considered as the FU of that copyrighted product.

Potential Market

If you are using a copyrighted product where the real owner of that product is also wanting to enter, then it will not be considered fair use.

For example, if you are using a copyrighted book to sell in the market for free, this will reduce the sales of real owners.

Examples of Fair UseExamples of Fair Use

Now let us know about a few examples of (Fair use):

Educational use

Use of some books or anything related to education by teachers for classroom use.


A person uses some scenes from the movie and adds some of his new content of dialogue to make that scene funny.

News Reporting

A news channel is using a short clip to their channel so that they could create the news related to that scene.

Review or commentary

A quote or dialogue can be used for the book review or commentary.


A copyrighted study on something can be used for research purposes.

These are some of the examples of fair use.

Misconceptions About Fair Use

There are some misconceptions about the fair use. So let us discuss them.

Giving Credit Is Not Enough

Some people think that if we are using some copyrighted material in our content and we just give credit to them, it is enough and now the real creator of that content will not file the infringement case against us. Also, in YouTube videos, many people use the content of others to make the video by just giving them the credit. But it is just a myth, just giving the credit to the owner does not make a use to fair use.

Non-commercial use is not always Fair Use.

You must know that if you are using something copyrighted but not commercializing can still come under infringement. It depends on how you are using such copyrighted material.

No Fixed Percentages

Just keep in mind that there is no fixed percentage defined that such percentage of work can be used under fair use. It depends from case to case. As we discussed if you are using the core or that material even in a smaller portion, then still it can be counted as infringement.


Everyone must know fair use whoever is involved in creating or using the material which is copyrighted under the law. You must have the knowledge that whatever you are doing with that material comes under fair use or you are infringing the rights of the copyright holder. Fair use indeed provides you the freedom to use the copyrighted material without the consent of the copyright holder but you need to be careful while using that material to avoid potential infringement issues.

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