Is “Fair Use” Actually Fair?

Copyright is a legal notion, enacted by most governments, which give the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it for a specified amount of time. Fair use is the term for the qualifications one must meet in order to use someone’s copyrighted work without the permission of the holder. The idea is to allow for limited and reasonable use of copyrighted material as long as the use does not interfere with owners’ rights, or impede their right to do with the work as they wish. Uses for criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research may be considered fair. However, within the Internet market itself, the idea of fair use has broadened, and the line between fair use and copyright is beginning to thin.

Essentially, fair use is a loophole to the use of copyrighted material. One of the major platforms that exemplifies fair use to the most extreme on the Internet is Youtube. The lines are often blurred when it comes to fair use and copyright laws, as they pertain to YouTube, and sometimes it can become confusing. Most of the time fair use comes into play with background music, parodies, video game tutorials, news coverage, and even musical covers. The best way to protect yourself is to stop and answer the questions: What am I doing with the copyright material, what is the nature of it, and how much am I actually using.

If you think about copyright as a series of restrictions, fair use is a set of exceptions. It protects your right to use copyrighted material in certain ways; it’s a fundamental part of the copyright bargain. We don’t give copyright owners unlimited control over their content, we preserve a whole variety of uses and things that people get to do with copyrighted content without permission. Fair use is really, above all else, a set of factors and considerations that help us figure out which things we carve out of the copyright monopoly, and which things we let people do without permission.


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