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Fair Use

Certain uses of copyrighted material may not require the copyright owner’s permission. In the United States, this concept is known as fair use. Some other countries have a similar concept known as fair dealing.

Whether or not a certain use of copyrighted material constitutes a fair use is ultimately determined by a court of law. Courts analyze fair use arguments by looking at four factors:

  • The purpose and character of the use.

    • How is the original work being used, and is the new use commercial? Transformative uses add something to the original work: commentary, criticism, educational explanation or additional context are a few examples. Transformative, non-commercial uses are more likely to be considered fair use.

  • The nature of the copied work.

    • What is the copied work itself? Is it factual (example: a record of a historical event) or fictional (example: a novel or Hollywood blockbuster)? Uses of factual works are more likely to be protected.

  • The amount and substantiality of the copied work.

    • How much of the work was copied? Short excerpts are more likely to be protected than copies of entire copyrighted works, if the use meets other factors as well.

  • The effect on the copied work’s value.

    • Will the copying harm the potential market for the copyrighted work by effectively creating a substitute or replacement for that work?  If so, the use is probably not fair use.

Fair use determinations are made on a case by case basis, and there is no clear formula to determine whether a use may be found to be fair. If you are unsure whether a particular use of copyrighted work might be a fair use, you may want to seek legal advice. Twitter is unable to advise whether your use may be protected or not.

For more information on fair use: