One of the misunderstood characters in the world of copyright and intellectual property is the concept of fair use.
For some, it’s used as a proverbial get out of jail free card – for others, it’s an important part of effective teaching, reporting and expression.
But what exactly is “fair use”, who decides what’s fair and why does it matter to you as a photographer, writer or designer looking to sell your wares in the ever-expanding online marketplace?
Comment, Criticism and Parody
Fair use is what keeps the wheels of praise, criticism and review freely spinning. Without the ability to quote a portion of a play, reproduce an element of a gallery display or passage from a novel, artists would be in an awkward position.
On the one hand, able to stave off harsh or uninvited criticism; but on the other, those good reviews that encourage people to visit unheard of attractions and commentary included in local color segments on the evening news would likely be close to nonexistent.
The other key component to the concept of fair use is parody.
While it is often said that mockery is the highest form of flattery, it can be hard for a creative to swallow seeing their photograph, painting or song aped in any media.
Again, we’re faced with the difference between generating buzz for our product and tolerating someone else making a living off of our own hard graft.
Unfortunately, the notion of fair use isn’t determined by dollar signs – if it was, the creative world would be a very different place.
The Four Factors
So what’s a photographer, writer, singer, artist or other creative supposed to do when they find their work has been effectively hijacked by someone else? First, you’ll want to Continue reading Copyright Theft vs Fair Use: How to Determine if Your Work Has Been Stolen or Adopted for Fair Use with a 4-Part Test