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Fair Use

Fair use is primarily designed to allow the use of the copyright protected work for commentary, parody, news reporting, research and education.

Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act lists four factors to help judges determine, and therefore to help you predict, when content usage may be considered "fair use."  

The University System of Georia provides a checklist to help students, staff and faculty determine whether their usage falls under the "fair use" principle.

What Do the Experts Say?

What is Copyright?

Copyright 101

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States(title 17,U.S.Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.

Public Domain

The term "public domain" refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.

There are four common ways that works arrive in the public domain:

  • expiration of copyright: the copyright has expired.
  • failure to renew copyright: the owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules.
  • dedication: the owner deliberately places it in the public domain (including U.S. government documents).
  • no copyright protection available: copyright law does not protect this type of work.

Determining Public Domain Status in the U.S.:

Published in 1922 or before In the public domain
Published after 1922 through 1963 Initial copyright term of 28 years. If not renewed during the 28th year, the work falls into the public domain.
Published after 1922 but before March 1, 1989

Generally, if a work is published without copyright notice under the authorization of the copyright owner and the law does not provide an exception for the omission, the work is in the public domain.

Source: NOLO Copyright & Fair Use Overview through Stanford University Library