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Understanding fair use: When is it ok to use my work?

On Behalf of | Aug 2, 2018 | Copyright Law |

As an artist or creator, you take great pleasure in seeing the effect your work has on others. Unfortunately, there are numerous people out there who do not understand the difference between inspiration and plagiarism. When someone tries to replicate or sell your work without your permission, you can find them liable for copyright infringement and sue them for any money they have cost you.

However, not all usage of your work without permission is copyright infringement. The defendant can claim that the usage of your work was under fair use. Before you file a copyright infringement lawsuit on the supposed wrongdoer, you should learn about what California classifies as fair usage of your material and what the limitations are.

Examples of fair use

With the various forms of media these days, people knowledgeable of your work have numerous methods to reference your composition while still creating something that can be original content. For example, if you wrote a published book, here are some ways they can use your work for different purposes:

  • Criticism: While online criticism can result in negative publicity, people have the right to critique your book in a newspaper, video or different websites.
  • News reporting: Journalists can cite quotes from your book or summarize your content in your article when reporting about you or writing about something connected to you or your work.
  • Parody: Comedians or other artists can imitate your book in a comedic fashion.
  • Research: Scholars researching and writing about topics related to your book may want to reference your work to help prove their points.
  • Teaching: Teachers can reproduce portions of your book for educational purposes. However, they may not be permitted to reproduce all of your book.

Factors in determining fair use

Even if the other person’s usage is an example of fair use, they are not off the hook yet. There are four factors the court uses to determine if their usage can constitute as fair. These factors include:

  • The purpose of the usage: If the other person used your work for commercial purposes as opposed for nonprofit education, it has less of a chance of counting as fair usage.
  • The copyrighted work’s nature: Creative work is less likely to be fair use because factual works receive less copyright protection.
  • How much material was copied: Unless the work is a parody, borrowing a large portion of your work would be violating the fair use law.
  • How the usage impacts the copyrighted work: If the supposed culprit’s usage is depriving you of potential income, the court may not consider it as fair usage. Criticism is less likely to count under this requirement.

If you believe that the other person’s usage is violating any of these factors, then you might be able to take action against them. You should seek out legal assistance to help build your case and ensure that your copyrighted work receives the proper protection.



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