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When Can You Use Copyrighted Work without Permission?

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By Barbara Gastel | Aug. 6, 2017  |

Greetings again. I hope you’ve had a good month.

Like many colleagues, I sometimes want to use copyrighted work in my teaching or writing. And I need to consider what I can use without permission. Therefore I recently attended a workshop on fair use.

This workshop was at my university and so had a US perspective. Much of the content, though, seems likely to be applicable elsewhere.

The workshop focused largely on the four factors to consider in judging whether copyrighted work may be used without permission in a given situation. The four factors are as follows:

  • purpose of the use (non-commercial or commercial): For example, use in a nonprofit workshop is more likely to be acceptable than use in a for-profit workshop.
  • nature of the work (factual or creative): For example, use of a list of statistics is more likely to be acceptable than use of a poem.
  • amount of work (only what you need or more than needed): For example, showing only the movie scene relevant to my point is more likely to be acceptable than showing the whole movie.
  • effect on the market (no harm or harm): Showing a slide with an image from a textbook is likely to be fair use. Scanning or photocopying the textbook so my students need not buy it is unlikely to be fair use.

All four factors should be considered in judging whether a proposed use is fair use. A checklist that can help is available. Of course, when using work that is not one’s own, the source must be stated.

A useful workshop!

Until next month—


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