Fair Use (FAQ) | U.S. Copyright Office (2022)

Can I Use Someone Else's Work? Can Someone Else Use Mine?

How do I get permission to use somebody else's work?

You can ask for it. If you know who the copyright owner is, you may contact the owner directly. If you are not certain about the ownership or have other related questions, you may wish to request that the Copyright Office conduct a search of its records or you may search yourself. See the next question for more details.

How can I find out who owns a copyright?

We can provide you with the information available in our records. A search of registrations, renewals, and recorded transfers of ownership made before 1978 requires a manual search of our files. Upon request, our staff will search our records, see Circular 4 Copyright Office fees. There is no fee if you conduct a search in person at the Copyright Office. Copyright registrations made and documents recorded from 1978 to date are available for searching online. For further information, see Circular 22, How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work, and Circular 23, Copyright Card Catalog and the Online File. Check out the Virtual Card Catalog Proof of Concept as well.

How can I obtain copies of someone else's work and/or registration certificate?

(Video) Fair Use

The Copyright Office will not honor a request for a copy of someone else's protected work without written authorization from the copyright owner or from his or her designated agent, unless the work is involved in litigation. In the latter case, a litigation statement is required. A certificate of registration for any registered work can be obtained see Circular 4 Copyright Office fees, for this and other records and services. Circular 6, Access to and Copies of Copyright Records and Deposit, provides additional information.

How much of someone else's work can I use without getting permission?

Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances. See, Fair Use Index, and Circular 21, Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians.

How much do I have to change in order to claim copyright in someone else's work?

Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work. Accordingly, you cannot claim copyright to another's work, no matter how much you change it, unless you have the owner's consent. See Circular 14, Copyright Registration for Derivative Works and Compilations.

Somebody infringed my copyright. What can I do?

(Video) Educational Uses

A party may seek to protect his or her copyrights against unauthorized use by filing a civil lawsuit in federal district court. If you believe that your copyright has been infringed, consult an attorney. In cases of willful infringement for profit, the U.S. Attorney may initiate a criminal investigation.

Could I be sued for using somebody else's work? How about quotes or samples?

If you use a copyrighted work without authorization, the owner may be entitled to bring an infringement action against you. There are circumstances under the fair use doctrine where a quote or a sample may be used without permission. However, in cases of doubt, the Copyright Office recommends that permission be obtained.

Do you have a list of songs or movies in the public domain?

No, we neither compile nor maintain such a list. A search of our records, however, may reveal whether a particular work is no longer under copyright protection. We will conduct a search of our records by the title of a work, an author's name, or a claimant's name. Upon request, our staff will search our records see Circular 4 Copyright Office Fees, for this and other records and services. You may also search the records in person without paying a fee.

I saw an image on the Library of Congress website that I would like to use. Do I need to obtain permission?

(Video) William Patry Discusses Fair Use at the US Copyright Office 1986

With few exceptions, the Library of Congress does not own copyright in the materials in its collections and does not grant or deny permission to use the content mounted on its website. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item from the Library’s collections and for securing any necessary permissions rests with persons desiring to use the item. To the greatest extent possible, the Library attempts to provide any known rights information about its collections. Such information can be found in the “Copyright and Other Restrictions” statements on each American Memory online collection homepage. If the image is not part of the American Memory collections, contact the Library custodial division to which the image is credited. Bibliographic records and finding aids available in each custodial division include information that may assist in assessing the copyright status. Search our catalogs through the Library's Online Catalog. To access information from the Library’s reading rooms, go to Research Centers.

Is it legal to download works from peer-to-peer networks and if not, what is the penalty for doing so?

Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner's exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution. Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney's fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights.

Whether or not a particular work is being made available under the authority of the copyright owner is a question of fact. But since any original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium (including a computer file) is protected by federal copyright law upon creation, in the absence of clear information to the contrary, most works may be assumed to be protected by federal copyright law.

Since the files distributed over peer-to-peer networks are primarily copyrighted works, there is a risk of liability for downloading material from these networks. To avoid these risks, there are currently many "authorized" services on the Internet that allow consumers to purchase copyrighted works online, whether music, ebooks, or motion pictures. By purchasing works through authorized services, consumers can avoid the risks of infringement liability and can limit their exposure to other potential risks, e.g., viruses, unexpected material, or spyware.

For more information on this issue, see the Register of Copyrights' testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

(Video) Copyright, Exceptions, and Fair Use: Crash Course Intellectual Property #3

Can a school show a movie without obtaining permission from the copyright owner?

If the movie is for entertainment purposes, you need to get a clearance or license for its performance.

It is not necessary to obtain permission if you show the movie in the course of “face-to-face teaching activities” in a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, if the copy of the movie being performed is a lawful copy. 17 U.S.C. § 110(1). This exemption encompasses instructional activities relating to a wide variety of subjects, but it does not include performances for recreation or entertainment purposes, even if there is cultural value or intellectual appeal.

Questions regarding this provision of the copyright law should be made to the legal counsel of the school or school system.

My local copying store will not make reproductions of old family photographs. What can I do?

Photocopying shops, photography stores and other photo developing stores are often reluctant to make reproductions of old photographs for fear of violating the copyright law and being sued. These fears are not unreasonable, because copy shops have been sued for reproducing copyrighted works and have been required to pay substantial damages for infringing copyrighted works. The policy established by a shop is a business decision and risk assessment that the business is entitled to make, because the business may face liability if they reproduce a work even if they did not know the work was copyrighted.

(Video) Copyright and Fair Use Explained

In the case of photographs, it is sometimes difficult to determine who owns the copyright and there may be little or no information about the owner on individual copies. Ownership of a “copy” of a photograph – the tangible embodiment of the “work” – is distinct from the “work” itself – the intangible intellectual property. The owner of the “work” is generally the photographer or, in certain situations, the employer of the photographer. Even if a person hires a photographer to take pictures of a wedding, for example, the photographer will own the copyright in the photographs unless the copyright in the photographs is transferred, in writing and signed by the copyright owner, to another person. The subject of the photograph generally has nothing to do with the ownership of the copyright in the photograph. If the photographer is no longer living, the rights in the photograph are determined by the photographer’s will or passed as personal property by the applicable laws of intestate succession.

There may be situations in which the reproduction of a photograph may be a “fair use” under the copyright law. Information about fair use may be found at Fair Use Index. However, even if a person determines a use to be a “fair use” under the factors of section 107 of the Copyright Act, a copy shop or other third party need not accept the person’s assertion that the use is noninfringing. Ultimately, only a federal court can determine whether a particular use is, in fact, a fair use under the law.


FAQs

Fair Use (FAQ) | U.S. Copyright Office? ›

Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute

U.S. copyright statute
What does copyright protect? Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.
https://www.copyright.gov › help › faq › faq-general
, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports.

What are the 4 fair use exceptions to copyright? ›

Fair use of copyrighted works, as stated in US copyright law, “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

What are the five general terms of the fair use rule? ›

Section 107 of the Copyright Act gives examples of purposes that are favored by fair use: “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, [and] research.” Use for one of these “illustrative purposes” is not automatically fair, and uses for other purposes can be ...

What are the three rules to follow to qualify for fair use? ›

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  • the purpose and character of your use.
  • the nature of the copyrighted work.
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and.
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market.

Does fair use require permission? ›

In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner.

What is the main difference between copyright and fair use? ›

Fair use only goes as far as being able to use it without making money off of it. A copyright gives you full ownership of the work, allowing you to claim it as your own and potentially make money off of it.

How much can you copy without infringing copyright? ›

You may use up to 10%, but no more than 3 minutes, of a single movie, TV show or video. You may use up to 10%, but no more than 30 seconds, of music and lyrics from a single musical work. You must purchase performance rights to hold a live performance of a copyrighted work.

What falls under fair use? ›

For example, in the United States, copyright rights are limited by the doctrine of "fair use," under which certain uses of copyrighted material for, but not limited to, criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research may be considered fair.

How much copyrighted material can be used under fair use? ›

Contrary to what many people believe, there is no absolute word limit on fair use. For example, copying 200 words from a work of 300 words wouldn't be fair use. However, copying 2,000 words from a work of 500,000 words might be fair. It all depends on the circumstances.

How many words is considered fair use? ›

Fair Use Length Guidelines

Up to 250 words. Entire article, story, or essay. Up to 10% or 1,000 words, whichever is fewer, but can use at least 500 words.

How can I use copyrighted material without permission? ›

Fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder for purposes such as criticism, parody, news reporting, research and scholarship, and teaching. There are four factors to consider when determining whether your use is a fair one.

What are examples of fair use? ›

U.S. fair use factors. Examples of fair use in United States copyright law include commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, and scholarship. Fair use provides for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor test.

What are examples of not fair use? ›

For example, scanning and posting an entire medical text book online for anyone to access for free is socially beneficial but probably not fair use.

Can I make copies of copyrighted material for personal use? ›

The Copyright Act allows anyone to photocopy copyrighted works without securing permission from the copyright owner when the photocopying amounts to a “fair use” of the material (17 U.S.C. SS107).

Can you copyright someone else's work? ›

Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work. Accordingly, you cannot claim copyright to another's work, no matter how much you change it, unless you have the owner's consent.

What is the difference between intellectual property copyright and fair use? ›

An individual or entity may accordingly use copyrighted material without first obtaining the permission of the owner of the copyright. This means that fair use is an affirmative defense that may be used if an owner makes a claim of infringement.

What is the best way to avoid issues with the fair use? ›

Best Practices to Avoid Violating Fair Use
  1. Be Original. Make sure your content is not a carbon-copy of the copyrighted content you are pulling from. ...
  2. Don't look to make a profit off of content you do not own. ...
  3. Limit yourself to the amount of copyrighted material you add to your content. ...
  4. Reverse roles.
Sep 21, 2017

What is not protected by copyright? ›

Not Protected by Copyright:

Titles, names, short phrases and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents.

Can 2 words be copyrighted? ›

Copyright protection does not extend to titles, names, slogans or short phrases, the Copyright Office has made that much very clear. You can not copyright your name, the title of your post or any short phrase that you use to identify a work.

Can 3 words be copyrighted? ›

Generally, copying of just a few words is permissible. It's going to be almost impossible for someone to claim copyright ownership over just two or three words.

Can a list of words be copyrighted? ›

Yes. There definitely lies copyright on any database established in the EU. A word frequency list is a database, and has a 15 year sui generis copyright. This also includes derivative works.

What qualifies as copyright infringement? ›

As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.

What types of creative work does copyright not protect? ›

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.

How much do I need to edit a copyrighted image to legally use it? ›

How much do you have to change artwork to avoid copyright? There is actually no percentage by which you must change an image to avoid copyright infringement. While some say that you have to change 10-30% of a copyrighted work to avoid infringement, that has been proven to be a myth.

How long of a clip can you use for fair use? ›

You may have heard of "fair use," a copyright provision that permits you to use 10, 15 or 30 seconds of music without copyright obligation.

How long does fair use last? ›

For most works, the term continues for the life of the author plus 70 years. For pseudonymous and anonymous works, and works made for hire, the term continues until 95 years from first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first.

Is using a quote copyright infringement? ›

However, extensive quoting of text from a copyrighted source can constitute copyright infringement, whether the appropriated text is properly enclosed in quotation marks or correctly paraphrased, even if a citation is provided according to established scholarly conventions.

Can fair use be used for commercial purposes? ›

If a use is commercial it is less likely to be fair use and if it is non-commercial it is more likely to be fair use. Transformative uses are those that add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and do not substitute for the original use of the work.

How do you get caught for copyright infringement? ›

Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses (e.g., copies, sells, distributes, displays) an original work without the express consent or permission of the creator or the copyright holder. It is that simple.

Can I use copyrighted material if I give credit? ›

When you use parts of someone else's work, it's legally and ethically important to give copyright credit. Giving proper credit is especially essential when you use copyrighted material for profit as part of your business, because you may be sued for copyright infringement.

What are the 4 factors of fair use? ›

The four factors of fair use:
  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes. ...
  • The nature of the copyrighted work. ...
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.

What is exempt from copyright law? ›

An exemption allows a user to exercise a copyright (like the right to make a copy) without prior permission from the copyright holder under certain conditions.

What are exceptions to the exclusive rights of copyright law called? ›

Fair use is one of the exceptions in copyright which allows use of copyrighted materials without obtaining permission as long as the use can be considered fair. There is a four-factor analysis which must be applied to each use to determine whether the use is fair. Each factor is given equal weight.

How much copyrighted material can be used under fair use? ›

Contrary to what many people believe, there is no absolute word limit on fair use. For example, copying 200 words from a work of 300 words wouldn't be fair use. However, copying 2,000 words from a work of 500,000 words might be fair. It all depends on the circumstances.

Who determines fair use? ›

Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.

What factors are considered infringement of copyrighted materials? ›

Below is an analysis of the four fair use factors.
  • Purpose and Character of the Use. The first fair use factor refers mainly to the function for which the copied material is being used. ...
  • Nature of the Copyrighted Work. ...
  • Amount of Copyrighted Work Used. ...
  • Effect of the Use on Potential Market for the Work.

What does not count as fair use? ›

Effect on the Value of or Market for the Work

The “effect on the market” factor is closely linked to the “purpose of the use” factor. For example, if the purpose of the use is commercial, any adverse market effect resulting from that commercial use weighs against fair use.

What are examples of fair use? ›

U.S. fair use factors. Examples of fair use in United States copyright law include commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, and scholarship. Fair use provides for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor test.

Is fair use a violation of copyright? ›

The statute provides that fair use of a work “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use, scholarship, or research)” is not an infringement of copyright.

Does altering an image avoid copyright? ›

There is actually no percentage by which you must change an image to avoid copyright infringement. While some say that you have to change 10-30% of a copyrighted work to avoid infringement, that has been proven to be a myth.

What types of creative work does copyright not protect? ›

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.

What constitutes fair use of an image? ›

Fair use allows certain uses of copyrighted works without obtaining permission from the copyright owner. Fair use allows copying of copyrighted material in an educational setting, such as a teacher or a student using images in the classroom.

Can fair use be used for commercial purposes? ›

If a use is commercial it is less likely to be fair use and if it is non-commercial it is more likely to be fair use. Transformative uses are those that add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and do not substitute for the original use of the work.

What are the 5 exclusive rights of copyright holders? ›

The five fundamental rights that the bill gives to copyright owners—the exclusive rights of reproduction, adaptation, publication, performance, and display—are stated generally in section 106.

What are the 6 exclusive rights of a copyright holder? ›

The right to reproduce the copyrighted work. The right to prepare derivative works based upon the work. The right to distribute copies of the work to the public. The right to publicly perform the copyrighted work.

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