In most general sense Fair-Use is any copying of Copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody of a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission of copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered infringement.

So what is ” transformative use”? If this definition is ambiguous or vague, be aware that millions of dollars in legal fees have been spent attempting to define what qualifies as a fair use. There are no hard and fast rules, only general guidelines and varied court decisions, because the judge, lawmakers who created the fair use exception did not want to limit its definition. Most Fair use analysis falls into two categories: a) commentary and criticism b) parody.

  1. Commentary and Criticism: If you are commenting on the Copyrighted work, for instance writing a book review, fair use principles allow you to reproduce some of the work to achieve your purpose. Some examples of commentary and criticism include:

a. quoting few lines from a song in a music review

b. summarising and quoting from a medical article on prostate cancer

c. copying a few paragraphs from news articles for use by teacher or student in a lesson

d. copying a portion of a Sport Illustrated magazine article for use in a related court case.

The underlying rationale of this rule is that the public reaps benefits from your views, which is enhanced by including some of the copyrighted material.

Parody: A Parody is a work that ridicules another, usually well-known by imitating in a comic way. Judges understand that by its nature, parody demands some taking from original work being parodied. Unlike other forms of fair use, a fairly extensive use of the original work is permitted in a parody in order to “conjure up” the original.