Legal Issues  «Prev  Next»
Lesson 3 Using copyrighted material
Objective Describe fair use.

Using Copyrighted Material

In some situations, you may find yourself loosely copying someone else's work without asking permission.
Is that lawful? In many cases, yes. The law recognizes certain uses as "fair." The fair use rule of copyright law permits some use of others' work without getting prior approval, though it is recommended that you cite the work appropriately.
Here is a scenario:
You are building a consumer opinion Web site for a client and find a great editorial from the local paper you would like to excerpt to spice up the content. Is it legally acceptable for you to go ahead and do so?
But be alert; indiscriminately copying another person's work, even if it's only a small amount, is not always legal. The law is fairly clear about what is appropriate fair use:

Fair Use

The following types of uses are generally considered fair:
Public Interest Criticism, reviews, or education that advance public interest
Scholarship Quoting scholarly or technical works
The following types of uses are generally considered unfair:
Commercial gain Uses that generate income or interfere with a copyright holder's income are generally not considered fair use
Commercial uses General appropriation of another's work for commercial use
Copying Copying an extensive amounts of an author's work

Following is a real-world example of violating fair use:
An online music firm indexes a popular rock group's music catalog, without their permission, to be copied and swapped by its members. The courts rule this violates fair use and is copyright infringement. It orders the music firm to immediately stop this unlawful activity.
Some use of others' work is approved by implication. For example, forwarding and archiving email messages posted to a public email list, as long as the original meaning has not been changed. Some Web sites that contain sensitive material may request that users who post material to the site give their approval for the site to forward their email. There are no formal rules that monitor this activity.

Internet and protection of copyright: fair use online

The international legal copyright protection regime is one of the best-regulated areas of international activity. Its pillar is the 1886 Berne Convention. The purpose thereof is "to protect, in as effective and uniform a manner as possible, the rights of authors in their literary and artistic works". Nevertheless, neither this document nor any accompanying agreements13 establish any tool of international protection of copyright, which would automatically protect the rights of each author in every part of the world. Authors are entitled to national protection, the basic shape of which results from the Convention; the detailed scope of protection is clarified and implemented exclusively by the states. The Berne Convention is based on two fundamental principles:
  1. the minimum protection principle: signatories shall provide at least such protection under national law as the Convention provides for; and/li>
  2. the assimilation principle: an author from another state shall be treated equally with nationals of a given member state.
As per the "minimum protection principle, a member to the Convention shall protect foreign works if several easily verifiable conditions set out in Article 2 are met. "National treatment" is described in Article 4 of the Convention, which provides for equal protection of the rights of authors in their country of origin and in countries other than their country of origin (even though the Convention stipulates a number of exceptions to these general rules). These Articles may be deemed the foundations of the international protection of copyright since they were accepted by 164 state parties.