Aldrich Law Firm, Ltd.
Aldrich Law Firm, Ltd.

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What does fair use mean?

Several weeks ago, we discussed the topic of fair use by citing a lawsuit between Google and Oracle. The subject involved a civil appeal regarding whether Java code owned by Oracle could be copied per fair use law. Whether you are a business owner or consumer in Las Vegas, understanding how fair use works may save you the expense and hassle of a lawsuit.

Fair use encompasses intellectual property that is copyrighted by a business or person, states Stanford University Libraries. If material is permissible under fair use law, you could copy it for use without the copyright owner’s permission. The conditions allowing this type of copying typically fall under discussion, criticism or parody purposes.

For example, you might have a blog where you review movies. Under fair use law, you could post direct quotes and summaries from the movie without needing permission from the studio that owns the rights to the film. Or, you might need to quote or paraphrase lines or paragraphs from an article for a school assignment. The purpose of fair use in these cases is to allow a discussion on the topic or to benefit your audience in some way. Fair use law also allows the parodying of a work, usually for entertainment purposes. Weird Al Yankovic makes a living off humorous renditions of popular music. Although he prefers to get permission from the artists before recording his versions of their songs, he is not legally obligated to do so.

Fair use law is often complex, since each individual case is usually open to a judge or jury’s interpretation. Therefore, the information in this blog is meant for educational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice.

John P. Aldrich
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