law makes it illegal to copy, display, publish, perform or create
derivative works of copyrighted material without the permission
of the owner. Most of the content on the Internet is covered by
copyright law (including text, images, music). Copyright law does
not protect the idea or the facts; it only protects the way an
author expressed him/herself.
is the “Fair Use” Doctrine?
The rights of the copyright owner are limited by the “fair
use” doctrine, which allows reproduction of copyright protected
materials under certain circumstances.
there are no clear-cut rules for what is “fair use.”
There are no “safe harbors” such as specific number
of words or percentage of content.
there are factors that are used to determine “fair use”:
Purpose and character of the use.
Is the use commercial or non-profit? Commercial use is less likely
to be “fair use.”
“Fair use” is more likely when the use is to illustrate,
comment, criticize, or educate.
Nature of the copyright work.
Is the work factual or fictional? Factual use is more likely
to be “fair use.”
Amount and substantiality of the portion of the work used.
The courts have found that using 300 words of a 30,000 manuscript
of President Ford’s memoirs was the “heart of the
book” and contributed to the conclusion that it was not
Effect on the potential market value of the copyrighted work.
Will your use diminish the potential revenue for the copyright
owner? If there’s financial harm (loss of revenue to the
copyright owner), then it’s probably not “fair use.”
clear rules. Suggested guidelines.
there are no firm rules, the following guidelines may help
in evaluating whether your use is within the “fair use” doctrine.
- Quote accurately and briefly.(Word-count
guidelines - such as 250 words or less - are not a safe harbor).
- Commercial use
is less likely to be “fair use.”
- Fictional works
receive more protection than factual works.
- “Fair use” includes
activities such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching
Getting permission of the copyright owner can be difficult and
costly. Sometimes it is difficult to identify the owner, which
can be the photographer or the publisher such as for a magazine
or newspaper. There are copyright “clearing houses” online.
For example, http://www.gettyimages.com,
makes it easy to obtain the rights to use images and photographs
and to determine what is royalty-free or what the royalty payment
is. Other sources include: Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., http://www.copyright.com
and Music Library Association (MLA) Clearinghouse, http://www.musiclibraryassoc.org.
conclusion, if you’re using someone else’s work, carefully
consider whether your use makes sense under the “fair use” doctrine.
Be careful to quote accurately, give credit and add value by
comparing, criticizing or commenting on the work. If your use
is extensive, get permission, in writing.
Jean D. Sifleet
Attorney & CPA
120 South Meadow Road
Clinton, MA 01510
Jean Sifleet, business attorney, CPA and three-time entrepreneur, is pleased to announce the release of her new book, Advantage “IP”: Profit from Your Great Ideas. Visit the Smartfast Bookstore for details, and to order the book
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