Fair Use Guidelines

The Facts:*

  • Fair use guidelines are arbitrary rules that suggest that copying, displaying or performing certain amount or percentage of copyrighted work is lawful. As such, their use is not recommended. 
  • They do not appear in the copyright law and therefore, have no real force or effect under the law.  It would be more accurate to say that fair use guidelines are institutional policies that may be implemented locally to ensure consistent copying practices.
  • People may have a false sense of security from using guidelines, believing they provide a “safe harbor” from litigation. 
  • In reality, in the very rare instance that a fair use case involving you was ever litigated, the court will make its determination of your liability based on the four factors rather than guidelines. 
*For an excellent critical summary of Fair Use Guidelines, see: Crews, Kenneth D. "The Law of Fair Use and the Illusion of Fair-Use Guidelines" Ohio State Law Journal 62 (2001):599-702.

Links to Select Fair Use Guidelines:

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