If your business is involved in marketing and multimedia, you are likely to encounter a conflict with copyright laws. Using a photograph or the text of another website can lead to fines. There are instances where you can use the copyrighted material that belongs to someone else without permission, but you need to be familiar with the fair use provisions of the law.
Copyright laws exist to protect the producers of creative works from exploitation. They restrict the use of a creative work and apply to many different mediums:
- Literature – Novels, Books, Magazine Articles, Scripts
- Video – Movies, Television Shows, Commercials,
- Audio Performances – Music, Sound Recordings, Radio Broadcasts
- Design Work – Graphics, Patterns, Unique Coloring, Architectural Designs
- Artwork – Paintings, Photographs, Sculptures
Owners of a copyrighted work have the power to reproduce, distribute, or perform their work in public. Copyright holders may profit from their work and prohibit others from profiting without permission. It is also the right of the creator to decide when to publish or not to publish their work.
Those wishing to use a copyrighted work in a significant way must secure permission from the copyright holder. Usually a copyright holder will authorize the use of their work for a fee or a percentage of the proceeds. If you are a nonprofit organization, permission can be obtained in the form of a donation to a charitable cause.
The Fair Uses of Copyrighted Material
A copyright may not be used to stifle discussion or the freedom of expression. It is for this reason that fair use guidelines exist within the law. Although these guidelines help to identify fair use, judges are given a wide range of discretion when deciding if a copyright has been violated or not.
Copyrighted material can be used without permission for the following reasons:
- News Reporting
The fair use of the material only applies for limited purposes. The material can be photocopied for teaching and educational purposes, but not for distribution. Excerpting, quoting, and summarizing are allowed, but you may not simply reproduce the entire body of a work.
How Fair Use Is Determined
Judges have a wide range of authority when determining if a copyright has been violated or not. There are four basics tests outlined in the law, but each case varies.
- Purpose of the use: The courts will look at how a copyrighted work has been used. They consider commercial and educational uses differently. They also attempt to gauge how transformative the new presentation is. A blatant copy is unlikely to be protected as fair use.
- The nature of the copyrighted work: Some works are more creative than educational. Facts receive less protection from copyright laws than works of pure creativity. Historical accounts and scientific materials are easier to borrow from under the fair use provision of the law than fiction or art.
- Amount of material used: When a large portion of the work is copied, it is less likely to be considered fair use. The only exception made is for parodies. Quotes and small excerpts are fair to use in most instances.
- Market value of the work: Depriving a copyright holder of potential income is not allowed as fair use. A judge will evaluate how much of an impact your use of material has had on the income of the copyright holder. A violation can occur when you profit from another person’s work, or when you simply damage the marketability of the work.
You may be using copyrighted material inappropriately and not even realize it. Photocopying a book or including a photo on a webpage are both ways in which you may be depriving a rightful owner of income. It is your responsibility to know when you need to seek the permission of copyright holders to use their work. If you are uncertain, consult legal guidance right away. Be proactive and work with the holder of a copyright to settle any claim before litigation becomes necessary.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.