Copyright and Fair Use Laws – What Happens When Fair Use Is Challenged?

In most cases, you cannot simply republish someone else’s work without their consent. As bloggers and social media users, we all know that or should know it. Obviously, it is illegal to claim someone else’s work as your own.

Even if you credit the publisher for the content, you still do not have the right to republish unless the owner of the content has granted you permission. Permission may come in the form of a written consent from the publisher in response to a request from you or it may come in the form of a creative commons license that allows republication. This is true whether the content is a text-based post or article, a photograph, an illustration, a video, a recording or any other form of content.

There are limitations to this rule though. These limitations on copyright are known as the doctrine of “fair use”. According to the United States Copyright Office, the following applies to fair use copyright doctrine.

“Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of 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
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.”

The reason I’m writing about this now is to bring your attention to this post on Rebellious Pixels that describes the author’s struggle to get his content reinstated after a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint was filed against his YouTube video. The author of the Buffy Vs. Edward video claimed that there was no copyright violation because the clip was used under the “fair use” doctrine. Not being a lawyer, I cannot comment on the validity of that claim. However, I do know that eventually, after a tortuous process, YouTube reinstated the video and removed a copyright infringement strike from the author’s YouTube account.

If nothing else, reading the Rebellious Pixels post will give you a good idea of what is involved in defending against a DMCA complaint. Hopefully, none of us will ever find ourselves in this position but stranger things have happened. A copyright infringement can cost you the loss of your account along with all the hard work that you’ve put into growing and developing your network there. It can also cost you time and money.

None of us can stop unjustly filed DMCA complaints but we can make sure that all the content we use falls within copyright law so that at least we have a defense if there is a claim made against us. If in doubt, consider getting permission to use the content. I’m not judging the Rebellious Pixels blogger at all. It’s likely he did nothing wrong. Even this post uses a quotation taken directly from another website in the name of “fair use”. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t want to have to defend myself against a charge of copyright infringement.

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About Lorie Huston, DVM

Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.

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