For businesses in Los Angeles looking for legal counsel, the fair use doctrine can be an incredibly important element of investment in intellectual property. It's a part of copyright law that lets you use someone else's copyright material without having to gain permission or licensing. There are many benefits to relying on fair use to make use of other people's copyrighted content, but businesses have to be careful that they don't cross any lines and find themselves in hot water. Here's an in-depth guide on getting started with the fair use doctrine.

What is the Fair Use Doctrine?

Simply put, the fair use doctrine is when someone uses copyrighted content without getting permission for it from the copyright holder. This is done for a variety of reasons, the most common of which being to create criticism, education, or research. It's because of this that people can take content from books, films, musical compositions, and other works in order to later use them for other purposes.

At the heart of the doctrine is the idea that creativity shouldn't be stifled, and that a sound legal system has to make allowances for such use. It's an exemption that won't protect you from poor monetary decisions, and is limited to certain circumstances.

Fair Use Explained

The fair use doctrine is explained in the US copyright law under 17 U.S.C § 107. It specifies that with certain exceptions, the pleadings of a party to an infringement action must be relevant and material to the case being argued. Through this, it's possible to use copyright material under specific circumstances, with protection from copyright infringement provided the use falls within the scope of this rule.

The rule goes on to lay out four other important elements that must be present in order for it to be considered fair use of copyright-protected content. The purpose and character of the use, the amount and necessity of the copyrighted work used, the effect of use on potential market value gain or loss, and the overall nature of the copyrighted work.

When Can the Fair Use Doctrine Be Used?

The fair use of a copyrighted work isn't always easy to determine. That's because the law requires that consideration be taken of a number of factors before reaching a judgment on its usage. These can include the purpose and character of the use, as this is essential in coming to a conclusion about the creator's intent.

A good example of fair use would be quoting a few sentences from a book to illustrate a point for educational purposes. But using too many can be infringing on the author’s copyright and is technically a violation.

Similarly, using fact-based information for commentary or criticism might be copyrightable, while parodies are definitely able to qualify under the fair use doctrine.

When Is the Fair Use Doctrine Not Appropriate?

The fair use doctrine does not protect you from copyright infringement. If your primary purpose of using the copyrighted material is for commercial gain or for redistribution via a competing market, then you might be violating copyright law.

If you're taking copyrighted work for the purposes of creating something that adds to its value or significance, then you should obtain permission from the copyright holder to protect yourself from copyright infringement. This includes works such as books and films, but it also applies to photographs, artwork, and anything else copyrighted by someone else.

Seeking Legal Advice: Who to Turn to for Help

When it comes to seeking legal advice on getting started with the fair use doctrine, it's important to find a lawyer who specialises in copyright law. This way, you can be sure that advice will be provided relevant to the local regulations. UpCounsel can help you find a lawyer in Los Angeles who can help you with your fair use concerns.

Whether you need a one-time consult or an entire freelance legal department, UpCounsel’s network of experienced lawyers has you covered. From small businesses to the Fortune 1000, groundbreaking companies of all sizes trust UpCounsel and its attorney community to provide high quality, cost-effective legal services. Access to high quality attorneys on demand, business attorneys have an average of 14 years of experience, profiles of our online attorneys display client ratings and reviews of recent work.


Fair Use Doctrine,


Los Angeles