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7.5: What Is Fair Use?

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    What Is Fair Use?


    Fair Use is an exception to U.S. copyright law that allows use of copyrighted work under certain conditions.

    Are you incorporating any materials in your research final product that were created by someone else, such as images or text from other works? These materials could be protected by copyright. For example, content you find online, text, books, movies, songs, email, images, and videos are most likely copyrighted. Fortunately, U.S. copyright law includes an exception that allows you to use copyrighted work in your assignments for class.

    However, if you would like to share your research product outside of the classroom (such as on a webpage or blog or in your portfolio), you will need permission from the copyright owner(s) unless your use is covered under another statutory exception. Fair use is one such exception, and it can apply to a wide variety of uses.

    Note: Fair Use and Educational Use

    Fair Use plays an important role in education. Although educational use receives several protections in copyright law, not all educational use is automatically fair use. It’s important to know that there are limits to how you can use others’ creative works even as a student or teacher in the classroom.

    In this section, you will learn about fair use and strategies to help determine whether or not a proposed use of someone else’s copyrighted works falls under the fair use exception. Understanding how to properly perform a fair use analysis and assert your fair use rights can help you to build upon others’ works with confidence.

    Fair Use and Copyright – A Balance

    Copyright in the U.S. is intended to promote the creation of new works by providing an incentive for creators. However, recognizing that new works often build on or incorporate existing works, the law strikes a balance between the rights of creators and the rights of users via exceptions to the exclusive rights of the creator.

    The fair use exception is detailed in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act. Unlike other copyright exceptions, fair use is flexible and can apply to a broad array of uses. It is designed to be adaptable to new uses and technologies so that Congress doesn’t have to create new exceptions before a new technology can be utilized.

    Movie: What Is Fair Use?

    Watch a short introduction to fair use from the OSU Libraries’ Copyright Resources Center.

    Video: What is Fair Use?(opens in new window)

    Parody and Satire

    Parody and satire use humor to convey their message. They create a new version of a work (also called a "derivative work"), that seeks to deliver a different message. Parody imitates the style of the original creator or work but introduces exaggerations that are intended to be funny. Satire, on the other hand, usually attempts to comment on society or the world.

    Parody and satire are most often used as tools of criticism and commentary. However, only parody can be considered fair use.

    Why is satire not fair use?

    Fair use states that you may use copyrighted works "for purposes such as criticism [or] comment"; however, parody has the explicit purpose of commenting on or criticizing the original work itself. It is an attempt to make humorous commentary about that work and usually cannot be done without mimicking the original work. Satire often has nothing to do with the original work that might be copied from, and so it isn't necessay to create a 'derivative'. Satire could be achieved through using other means or styles.

    This page titled 7.5: What Is Fair Use? is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Daniel Wilson.

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