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Fair Use and the Four Factors

Fair use is a provision in copyright law that, under specific criteria (the four factors), allows for the copying and distribution of copyrighted material. This provision allows for agencies to report news, critics to review books, artists to create transformative works, and educators to share reading materials without having to obtain permission from the copyright holder. 

To determine whether usage of a material falls under fair use, the Copyright Act set four factors that need to be considered. These factors are:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

17 U.S. Code § 107 - Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

A Window on Fair Use