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Fair use allows “an author may make limited use of another author's work without asking permission,” (Nolo: Law for all, 2011). If one uses copyrighted material beyond fair use, it is considered an infringement. Infringement is basically a violation of the copyright law; although, it’s been stated that “the distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined,” (United State Copyright Office, 2009). To avoid the possibly of an infringement, there are guidelines that need to be followed under the fair use doctrine.
First off, there are four questions one must consider when using copyrighted material under the fair use doctrine: “purpose of use, nature of work, proportion/extent of the material used, and the effect on marketability,” (Newsome, 2000). Purpose of use refers to what a copyrighter material is going to be used for (i.e. education). The nature of the work deals with the type of material being used. For example, one needs to ask if the “copyrighted work published or unpublished, is the copyrighted work out of print, and is the work factual or artistic,” (University of Maryland University College [UMUC], 2011).
The next point to consider is the amount of copyrighted material being used. However, allowed amounts depend on the type and length of material. For instance, ten percent or thirty seconds of a song may be used (depending on which one is less) (Information Technology Evaluation Services: Public Schools of North Carolina, 1997).
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The final, and most important, of the previously stated questions is that of “effect on marketability,” (Newsome, 2000). This wants to know “if there will be no reduction in sales because of copying or distribution,” (Newsome, 2000). Therefore, will the use of the copyrighted material take profits away from the owner? If not, then the fair use doctrine will most likely apply.
Copyright and fair use need to be taught in classrooms where students are required to gather outside information for a project. The reason that most students go through school not knowing about these laws is because “most teachers do not teach about the law of copyright and fair use because they themselves to not understand it,” (Hobbs, 2010). “As a result, students do not learn that copyright is designed to protect both the rights of owners and users in order to promote creativity and innovation,” (Hobbs, 2010). Therefore, it is pertinent that teachers educate themselves, not only to set a good example, but to properly educate their students as well.