Fair Use Copyright: Understanding Business Laws

In this sequel of aiming to comprehend business laws, topics such as product liability, copyright VS trademark, and product placement have been tackled. This time we will dig deeper into copyright laws. Fair use copyright is related to copyright law and it also ensures the protection of intellectual property. Similarly, fair use copyright is of great importance to business owners, specifically those related to online marketing, because the industry deals with a lot of intellectual property. Surely, nobody wants their company to violate copyright laws and face legal problems.

What Is Fair Use Copyright?

Fair use copyright is a part of copyright law. It is concerned with giving flexibility to copyright laws, so that they do not contradict with freedom of expression and creativity. Fair use entitles that people are allowed to use copyrighted material without a permission from the author in some cases. To put it differently, fair use is a defense against a case of copyright violation. This gives users the space to use the material creatively and reduces the restrictions under certain conditions. The law, however, does not define specific cases where it is allowed to use copyrighted material. Instead, it just highlights some generic measurements that can judge whether the use is a fair one, or not. Examples of fair use cases may include commentary, criticism, education, and parody.

The Four Scales of Fair Use Copyright

Judging a fair use copyright is tricky to a great extent, since it differs from one case to another. Therefore, sometimes it is not clear whether a case is a fair use or not. The law, however, does provide certain guidelines or measurements where one can evaluate a fair use copyright based on four scales. It is crucial to mention that any case should be evaluated based on ALL four scales and not just one. In other words, this is a checklist where you can find out whether a case is likely to be fair. In addition, pay attention that there is no accurate judgment on fair use, unless it is defined by court. The four scales are only the basis on which you can “assume” the legality of use.

1- Purpose

This scale considers what the copyrighted work is used for. Purposes which favor fair use are usually educational and non-profitable. Educational and non-profitable purposes usually enrich the original work and add value and reputation to it. Using copyrighted material for those reasons are considered a point for fair use. On the contrary, purposes such as commercial activity and entertainment oppose fair use copyright. Of course, if the purpose denies credit to the original author, that definitely is against fair use.

2- Nature

The nature of the work used also takes part in determining a fair use. The most two important factors which reflect the nature of the work are publication and factuality. Publication refers to whether the work is a published one or not, whereas factuality refers to whether it is a fictional piece of art (i.e., novels, music, plays, and films) or the opposite. Highly creative or unpublished material oppose fair use.

3- Amount

The amount of the material used or quoted also counts in the fair use evaluation. If a user copies the whole copyrighted work or a large part of it, it is considered as a point against fair use. Moreover, if the core or the main part of the piece is used, this may also count against fair use.

4- Effect

This scale evaluates fair use from an economic point of view. This means that it considers how the use of the copyrighted material affects the market. For example, if the use may replace sale of the original work or the user makes numerous copies, that will definitely harm the market for the original work and is against fair use.

Fair Use Copyright Situations

  • Commentary and Criticism:

The definition of commentary is discussing an opinion of a piece of art such as a book, a film, a poem, or even an article. Similarly, criticism is the interpretation or the passing of a judgment on a work of art. Both cases may require quoting or using a sample of the work criticized. Samples may be in the form of quotations and copying a few paragraphs or articles. This is considered a fair use.

  • Education and Research:

In any classroom, professors and teachers need to use samples of copyrighted works, such as books, movies, criticisms, and articles all the time. They are allowed to use such material and make copies of it to their students. Thus, fair use copyright applies on education and research purposes.

  • News Reporting:

This somehow resembles commentary since it also analyzes an event and may comment on the current affairs. Obviously, in order to be able to do that, news agencies may include copyrighted material in their programs.  


Transformative Use: The Additional Scale

The transformative use is a recent addition to the law of copyright. This scale looks at the used copyrighted work from a different perspective. The term “transformative” means that the work has been used in a completely unexpected or different way from the original one. A good example would be parody. Parody is “a work that ridicules another, usually well-known work, by imitating it in a comic way.” The nature of parody requires borrowing a big part of the original work; therefore, even if it contradicts the four factors, it does not violate copyright regulations. Another example is making audio and video remixes which also introduces the original work in a “transformative” form. Transformative use is relatively new law; therefore it takes into consideration the up-to-date purposes and usage of copyrighted material on the Internet.

To Wrap Things Up

Fair use copyright is an indispensable part of the copyright law. It aims to balance between the restrictions required to protect the owners of intellectual property, and the flexibility of expression. Protecting creativity is the motive behind establishing copyrights. Therefore, it would have been empty-talk if the law does not protect the fair use of copyrighted words for the right purposes and suitable conditions. Digital marketing specialists and business owners usually deal with copyrighted material and creative works. For that reason, it is a must to understand what they should or should not use while creating content, for example, or even making marketing campaigns for products. Commercials, photos, videos, and almost all sorts of content are subject to copyrights. So, marketers and agencies should be careful in order to avoid legal penalties.