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How do fair use laws affect copyright protection?

Copyright laws enforced in California and throughout the United States protect a wide variety of material considered to be original works, such as literary work, art, music, videos, software and motion pictures. The purpose of copyright protection is to prevent a person's original work from being stolen and used by another for gain, usually financial in nature. The law does, however, provide a provision for using what would normally be copyrighted work called fair use laws.

As long as the use of a work falls under the terms of fair use, it is not considered copyright infringement. Generally, if the work is being used for the purpose of critique, commentary, or news reporting it is not a violation of copyright law. The use of materials of education or research, including copying such materials for classroom use, is also fair use. This is the provision that allows teachers and students to, for example, make copies of textbook pages or workbook pages without violating the law.

Deciding if use of copyrighted material constitutes fair use is a murky area. There are several other factors that help the court make a decision regarding fair use. First, works are normally not copied in their entirety. Creating a complete copy of work may still be a violation. Financial impact is also a strong consideration. Generally, there should be no harm to the value of the work and no financial gain for the user. Fiction and art work is also generally more carefully protected than non-fiction.

Due to the wide variety of factors involved in determine fair use, it is wise to consult an intellectual property attorney for such copyright matters. An attorney can help in determining if a given use will likely be considered fair use. If an infringement lawsuit is filed, then fair use is a common defense an attorney might employ.

Source: FindLaw, 'Fair Use Law," Jan. 6, 2015.

Source: Findlaw, "Intellectual Property", January 06, 2015

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