Copyright Explained – What’s The Fair Use Rule?

Copyright violation has been a much debated topic and also it has been under spotlight, what does and does not fall under the category of copyright violation. Many a times content is used without authorization in the name of fair use. But is that fair use or unauthorized use? There’s a difference between the two which needs to be kept in mind to avoid any mishaps.


Defining in literal terms, copyright is the safeguarding right of the creator of intellectual property to authorize its use by whoever he/she allows. The country’s laws regulate policies of copyright protection and are aimed at promoting original work of art or writing or any other form of creativity. The creator of the work is granted exclusive right for the distribution of the work. The intellectual property is safeguarded this way so that anyone does not copy it without explicit permission from the creator of the original work. For copyright, the work has to be fixated somewhere, which means it has to be written on paper, recorded, saved on computer etc.

Originality is the fundamental condition of copyright. However, use of another individual’s original work to discuss new concepts and novel ideas based on it could be regarded as original work. A copyright protects the right to make copies of an original work, sell it or distribute it, perform based on it, and use it for further work without acquiring permission from the original creator of the work.

There are also a few limitations associated with copyright, such as it cannot protect government documents, public ordinances, ideas and facts, names, product names, ingredients of recipe, blank forms and judicial ordinances. Also, work that has expired copyright license cannot be protected until the renewal of license.

Fair Use

Fair use is the right to use the copyrighted work to a certain extent without acquiring permission of the creator of original work. For fair use, the points need to kept in consideration are:

  • The use would lead to value addition to the original work.
  • How much amount of original work is used in the name of Fair Use

Transformative use that only makes a point for a different audience and supports the ongoing work is considered to be fair use of a copyright. Also, if an original work is used for a different audience and with a purpose to transform the original work into something more productive, it would be fair use of the original work. For educational purpose or non profit work, use of original work is considered fair use.

If the purpose is just to reproduce the already copyright protected work, it is definitely not fair use. The more creative a work is, the less likely it would be considered fair use to use it. However, work containing factual information could be used in the name of fair use, quite easily.

If the usage of an original work exceeds reasonable expectation (more than half or half of your work is the copy of it) it falls out of the category of fair use straight away. Differing new work from the original work of a creator that is copyright protected, would not be considered copyright infringement (just like for new audience or transformation of original work).

Permission has to be sought if you’re planning to use the original work for commercial purpose, repeated use or when a great amount of original work is desired to be used for some new work.

Acquire permissions, and take care of the limitations of fair use to avoid any legal actions that may malign yours or your business’s credibility.