Fair Use is defined in Section 107 of the Copyright Act and allows limited free use and distribution of copyrighted materials under certain conditions. The full extent of Fair Use is not defined in the statute; the concept continues to evolve with each court case. The purpose of Fair Use is to enable educators, researchers, and commentators to use copyrighted works in pursuit of their jobs – research, teaching, criticism, and news reporting all fall under Fair Use. In court cases, judges consider four factors: purpose of the use, nature of the work, the proportion of the work used, and the effect of the use on the market.
In recent years, judges have increasingly focused on the question of whether the use of a copyrighted work is "transformative" – was the work used in a new way or for a different purpose than the creator intended to create something new, and was the amount of the work used appropriate to achieve the desired result?
In determining whether your use of copyrighted material falls under Fair Use doctrine, you must consider all four of the factors defined by the courts. Even if your use does not meet all four of the guidelines, your use of copyrighted materials may still be protected.