Recycling old content can be very economical business tactics, it certainly has been the best strategy. For businesses, educational, institutional, and charities, using already existing content to draw attention to the campaign, performances and activities can be tremendous time saver. However if you want to use very much of original content you need to find the content that is part of public domain, content you can get permission to use, content which is based on facts or content that you can use in a way that is deemed “fair use”.

Fair Use

Obviously, getting permission from original creator is always preferrable. The creator’s permission generally brings with it most rights and freedom, and it also prevents later lawsuits. But even if the original creator says no, you might be able to use some content under fair use doctrine. Fair use is essentially a limited use of copyrighted work. It can be used for educational purposes, as well as for analysis and reviews.In these cases, you quote the work, properly citing its source, in order to discuss analyse or review it. There is no quota for the amount of content that can be quoted as a part of fair use. In part fair use depends on the length of the work being quoted from. For example, you can use a few lines from a novel without a problem, as long as you include a clear citation of the source. Lines from songs, however don’t usually qualify as fair use because they are too short. If a song writer asks you to stop using the lyrics form his or her song, even if it is just one line and its clearly a part of the song, you have to stop. However there are exceptions. Fair use does not remove any of the creators’ right. You cant claim the work as your own work that would be plagiarism. Attribution has to be given all the time. Educational institutions receive the broadest protection. While they cannot use all of a work without the author’s permission or without providing compensation, they can generally use more content than other organisation or individual.

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

So what is a “trans-formative” use? If this definition seems 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 judges and lawmakers who created the fair use exception did not want to limit its definition. Like free speech, they wanted it to have an expansive meaning that could be open to interpretation.

Public Domain

The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.

Work in public domain, on the other hand, are creative works that are not covered by copyright. This includes work that have been in existence long enough that either their creators have been dead for 70 years or more years or the copyright protection have lapsed for that length of time. It also includes works produced by government, which does not copyright its work. When enough time has passed since a work was originally produced, it enters the public domain. If a work in the public domain, attribution must still be given to the original creator, but anyone can use or sell the works. So, for example, if you want to use a quotation from Shakespeare in your organization’s promotional materials, you will not have to seek permission to do so. Likewise, you can use government statistics without permission. Many bookstores publish entire books that are in the public domain to help boost their offerings. 

Public Domain does not fully remove the original creator’s rights. Attribution must always be given though you may change the original pieces significantly. An important wrinkle to understand about public domain material is that, while each work belongs to the public, collections of public domain works may be protected by copyright. If, for example, someone has collected public domain images in a book or on a website, the collection as a whole may be protect able even though individual images are not. You are free to copy and use individual images but copying and distributing the complete collection may infringe what is known as the “collective works” copyright. Collections of public domain material will be protected if the person who created it has used creativity in the choices and organization of the public domain material.