The 'Fair Use' principle was formally written into the US copyright law with the passage of the 1976 Copyright Act under which Title 17 > Chapter 1 > Section 107 allows for the "fair abridgement" or fair use of copyrighted material when up to four conditions are met . Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A these conditions are taken into considerations by the court when deciding copyright violation cases:
(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.
It is the sole discretion of the court to definitively rule on fair use verses copyright infringement but when those four guidelines are modestly adhered to, the fair use defense is usually supported. This means that the author of an original work has a right to ownership of that work, but others can use portions of the work without seeking permission for socially productive purposes. Such purposes may be, but not limited to, research and educational use for non-profit, criticism and commentation as well as news reporting. However the fair use defense tends not to be upheld when the copyrighted material is being used commercially, for profit, has a significant effect on the market of the copyrighted work or is a highly creative work such as art, films, songs and novels. There are also many other factors taken into consideration by the court when deciding fair use defenses, some of these factors support fair use and some do not.
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Notice: This article is intended to inform the reader on the general issues regarding copyright law and fair use, it is not intended to be a supplement for legal advice. Seek legal council before acting on any of the information contained in this article. The defense of WallStreetMainStreet.com to use copyrighted material is not limited to or restricted by the contents of this article.