The Copyright Office explains fair use as a legal doctrine that permits the unlicensed use of copyright-protected work. This is only under specific circumstances, however. The Copyright Act has a framework included to determine whether something falls under fair use.

How can you determine fair use? Here is what you need to know about the legal doctrine and how courts analyze it.

What type of work constitutes fair use?

Commentary, news reporting, criticism, research and teaching are reasons why a person may use copy-written work. A piece of work that is for nonprofit educational purposes is more likely to be fair use than a commercial project. If a person must deal with copyright and fair use law, he or she will most likely hear about transformative content. Transformative content is not in violation of copyright. Transformative work means to add something new with a different purpose from the original.

What do courts examine?

To decide fair use, courts will look at the quantity of the work used. For instance, if the use contains a large percentage of copyrighted work, it is more likely to be a copyright violation. Likewise, if the use contains a substantial piece from the original work, it may not be fair use. For instance, the heart of the work may not be fair use, depending on the use itself and the work.

Fair use examines to what extent unlicensed use may harm the future market for the original work. If the use displaces sales of the original or causes substantial harm, the use may not be fair.