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Fair Use, Free Use, and Use by Permission: The Three Methods for Using Copyrighted Works in All Media


Fair Use, Free Use, and Use by Permission: How to Handle Copyrights in All Media




Have you ever wanted to use someone else's work in your own project, such as a book, a song, a picture, or a video? If so, you might have wondered how to do it legally and ethically, without violating the rights of the original creator. In this article, we will explain how you can handle copyrights in all media, using three different methods: fair use, free use, and use by permission. We will also provide some tips and examples for each method, so you can apply them to your own situation.




Fair Use, Free Use, and Use by Permission: How to Handle Copyrights in All Media download pdf


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Introduction




What is copyright?




Before we dive into the methods, let's first understand what copyright is and how it works. According to Merriam-Webster, copyright is "the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (such as a literary, musical, or artistic work)". This means that when someone creates an original work of expression, they automatically own the exclusive rights to control how it is used by others. These rights include:



  • The right to make copies of the work



  • The right to distribute the work to the public



  • The right to make derivative works based on the original work



  • The right to perform or display the work publicly



  • The right to authorize others to do any of the above



These rights last for the life of the author plus 70 years after their death (or 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation for works made for hire). After that period, the work enters the public domain and anyone can use it freely without permission.


What are the different types of media?




In this article, we will focus on four main types of media that are commonly used in various projects: text, images, audio, and video. Each type of media has its own characteristics and challenges when it comes to handling copyrights. Here are some examples of each type:



  • Text: books, articles, blogs, poems, essays, etc.



  • Images: photos, illustrations, paintings, drawings, logos, icons, etc.



  • Audio: music, songs, podcasts, sound effects, speeches, etc.



  • Video: movies, documentaries, animations, clips, trailers, etc.



Why is it important to handle copyrights correctly?




You might be wondering why you should care about handling copyrights correctly. After all, isn't it easier and faster to just copy and paste whatever you need from the internet? Well, there are several reasons why you should avoid doing that:



  • It is illegal. You could face legal consequences, such as lawsuits, fines, or even criminal charges, if you infringe someone else's rights.



  • It is unethical. You could harm the reputation and income of the original creators, who deserve to be recognized and compensated for their work.



  • It is unprofessional. You could damage your own credibility and quality, as well as the trust and respect of your audience, if you use someone else's work without proper attribution or permission.



  • It is uncreative. You could miss the opportunity to express your own voice and style, as well as to learn new skills and techniques, if you rely on someone else's work instead of creating your own.



Therefore, it is important to handle copyrights correctly, not only to avoid legal and ethical problems, but also to enhance your own professional and creative development.


Fair Use




What is fair use?




One of the methods you can use to handle copyrights in all media is fair use. According to Stanford University, fair use is "any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and 'transformative' purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work". Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement.


Fair use is based on the idea that some uses of copyrighted works are beneficial for society, as they promote creativity, education, and public interest. Therefore, they should be allowed under certain circumstances, even if they affect the rights of the original creators.


What are the four factors of fair use?




However, fair use is not a clear-cut rule that applies to every situation. It is determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the specific facts and context of each use. To decide whether a use is fair or not, courts usually consider four factors:



  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;



  • The nature of the copyrighted work;



  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and



  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.



These factors are not fixed or weighted equally. They are meant to guide the analysis and balance the interests of both parties. No one factor alone can determine whether a use is fair or not. However, some factors may be more influential than others in certain cases. For example, the first and fourth factors are usually the most important ones.


How to apply fair use to different media?




To help you understand how fair use works in practice, let's look at some examples of how it can be applied to different types of media. Keep in mind that these are only illustrative scenarios and not definitive answers. The outcome of each case may vary depending on the specific details and circumstances involved.


Text




Suppose you are writing a book review for a blog. You want to quote some passages from the book to support your analysis and opinion. Is this fair use?


Possible answer: Yes, this is likely fair use. The purpose and character of your use is transformative, as you are adding your own commentary and criticism to the original work. The nature of the copyrighted work is creative, which weighs against fair use, but the amount and substantiality of the portion used is small and relevant to your review, which weighs in favor of fair use. The effect of your use upon the potential market for or value of the book is minimal or positive, as you are not competing with or substituting for it, but rather promoting it to your readers.


Images




Suppose you are making a presentation for a class project. You want to include some images from the internet to illustrate your points. Is this fair use?


if you use them excessively or inappropriately (such as copying the entire image or high-resolution versions). You should also always give proper credit to the source of the images.


Audio




Suppose you are making a podcast about music history. You want to play some clips of songs from different genres and eras to illustrate your points. Is this fair use?


Possible answer: It depends on the length and purpose of the clips, as well as how you use them in your podcast. If the clips are short and relevant (such as a few seconds or a chorus), you may have a stronger case for fair use than if they are long and irrelevant (such as a whole song or a verse). If you use them for analytical or educational purposes (such as comparing styles or techniques), you may have a stronger case for fair use than if you use them for entertainment or commercial purposes (such as playing background music or selling ads). If you use them in a transformative way (such as remixing or parodying them), you may have a stronger case for fair use than if you use them in a non-transformative way (such as reproducing or copying them). You should also always give proper credit to the source of the songs.


Video




Suppose you are making a video essay about a movie. You want to include some scenes from the movie to support your analysis and opinion. Is this fair use?


Possible answer: Yes, this is likely fair use. The purpose and character of your use is transformative, as you are adding your own commentary and criticism to the original work. The nature of the copyrighted work is creative, which weighs against fair use, but the amount and substantiality of the portion used is small and relevant to your essay, which weighs in favor of fair use. The effect of your use upon the potential market for or value of the movie is minimal or positive, as you are not competing with or substituting for it, but rather promoting it to your viewers.


Free Use




What is free use?




Another method you can use to handle copyrights in all media is free use. Free use is when you can use someone else's work freely without permission or payment, because the work is either in the public domain or licensed under a free license.


A work is in the public domain when it is no longer protected by copyright, either because it has expired, been forfeited, waived, or never existed. For example, works created by the U.S. federal government, works published before 1926, and works that failed to comply with formalities are in the public domain. Anyone can use public domain works for any purpose without restriction.


A work is licensed under a free license when the copyright owner grants certain permissions to anyone who wants to use their work, usually under certain conditions. For example, Creative Commons licenses are free licenses that allow users to copy, distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon works, as long as they follow the terms of the license. These terms may include giving credit, using for non-commercial purposes only, sharing under the same license, and not making any changes.


What are the sources of free use media?




There are many sources of free use media on the internet that you can use for your projects. However, you should always be careful and verify that the works are indeed free to use and not mislabeled or infringing. Here are some examples of reliable sources of free use media:



  • Public domain collections: These are websites that collect and provide access to works that are in the public domain. For example, Project Gutenberg offers over 60,000 free ebooks; Wikimedia Commons offers over 75 million free media files; and Archive.org offers over 30 million free books, movies, music, and more.



  • Free license platforms: These are websites that host and distribute works that are licensed under free licenses. For example, Flickr offers over 500 million photos and videos under Creative Commons licenses; SoundCloud offers over 200 million tracks under Creative Commons licenses; and YouTube offers over 70 million videos under Creative Commons licenses.



  • Free license search engines: These are websites that allow you to search for works that are licensed under free licenses across different platforms. For example, Creative Commons Search allows you to search for images, music, and videos under Creative Commons licenses from various sources; Google Advanced Search allows you to filter your search results by usage rights; and Pixabay allows you to search for over 2 million free images and videos.



How to attribute free use media correctly?




When you use free use media, you should always give proper credit to the original creators, unless they have explicitly waived or released their rights. This is not only a legal requirement, but also a moral and professional obligation. Giving credit shows respect and appreciation for the creators, as well as helps your audience find and access the original works.


The way you attribute free use media depends on the source and license of the work. You should always follow the instructions and guidelines provided by the source and license, as they may vary in their details and requirements. However, a general rule of thumb is to include the following information in your attribution:



  • The title of the work



  • The name of the creator



  • The source of the work (such as a URL or a platform)



  • The license of the work (such as a name or a symbol)



  • Any changes you made to the work (if applicable)



For example, if you use an image from Flickr that is licensed under CC BY 2.0, you could attribute it like this:


"Sunset" by John Smith, Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://flickr.com/photos/johnsmith/1234567890


Use by Permission




What is use by permission?




The third method you can use to handle copyrights in all media is use by permission. Use by permission is when you can use someone else's work only with their explicit consent and agreement, usually in exchange for some form of compensation or recognition.


Use by permission is based on the idea that the original creators have the right to decide how their works are used by others, and that they should be rewarded for their efforts and contributions. Therefore, they should be contacted and consulted before any use of their works, and their terms and conditions should be respected and followed.


How to obtain permission from copyright owners?




To obtain permission from copyright owners, you need to identify who they are, contact them, and negotiate with them. Here are some steps you can follow:



  • Identify the owner: You need to find out who owns the rights to the work you want to use. This may not always be the same person as the creator, as they may have transferred or licensed their rights to someone else, such as a publisher, a record label, or a studio. You can usually find this information on the work itself (such as a copyright notice or a credit line), on the source where you found it (such as a website or a platform), or on a registry or a database (such as the U.S. Copyright Office or ASCAP).



  • Contact the owner: You need to reach out to the owner and ask for their permission. You can usually do this by email, phone, mail, or online form. You should explain who you are, what you want to use their work for, how you want to use it, how long you want to use it, and what you can offer them in return (such as money, credit, exposure, etc.). You should also be polite, respectful, and professional in your communication.



and payment methods. You should also make sure that the terms are clear, fair, and reasonable for both parties.


  • Obtain the permission: You need to get the permission in writing and signed by both parties. This can be done by email, mail, or online form. You should keep a copy of the permission for your records and reference. You should also follow the terms and conditions of the permission faithfully and accurately.



How to comply with the terms of permission?




When you use someone else's work by permission, you should always comply with the terms and conditions of the permission, as they are legally binding and enforceable. If you fail to do so, you could face legal consequences, such as lawsuits, fines, or even criminal charges, as well as ethical consequences, such as harming the reputation and income of the original creators. Here are some tips to help you comply with the terms of permission:



  • Read and understand the permission carefully before using the work. If you have any questions or doubts, ask the owner for clarification or confirmation.



  • Use the work only for the purpose, manner, extent, and duration that you agreed on with the owner. Do not use it for any other purpose, manner, extent, or duration without their consent.



  • Respect the quality and integrity of the work. Do not alter, modify, distort, or degrade it without their consent.



  • Give proper credit to the owner and the work. Follow their instructions on how and where to attribute them.



  • Pay the owner according to the agreed fee and payment method. Do not delay or default on your payment.



  • Report any problems or issues that arise from your use of the work to the owner as soon as possible. Do not hide or ignore them.



Conclusion




In conclusion, we have discussed how to handle copyrights in all media using three different methods: fair use, free use, and use by permission. We have explained what each method is, how it works, and how to apply it to different types of media. We have also provided some examples and tips for each method, as well as some sources of free use media that you can use for your projects.


We hope that this article has been informative and helpful for you. Remember that handling copyrights correctly is not only a legal and ethical obligation, but also a professional and creative opportunity. By doing so, you can avoid problems and conflicts, as well as enhance your own skills and reputation.


FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions about this topic:



  • What is the difference between fair use and free use?



Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission for certain purposes, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Free use is when you can use someone else's work freely without permission or payment because it is either in the public domain or licensed under a free license.


  • How can I find out if a work is in the public domain or licensed under a free license?



You can usually find this information on the work itself (such as a notice or a symbol), on the source where you found it (such as a website or a platform), or on a registry or a database (such as the U.S. Copyright Office or Creative Commons). You can also use some websites that collect and provide access to works that are in the public domain or licensed under free licenses (such as Project Gutenberg or Flickr).


  • How can I contact a copyright owner to ask for permission?



You can usually contact them by email, phone, mail, or online form. You can find their contact information on their website or platform (such as an author page or a profile page), on their work (such as a credit line or a signature), or on a registry or a database (such as ASCAP or IMDb).


  • How much should I pay for permission?



There is no fixed or standard fee for permission. It depends on various factors such as the type and nature of the work, the scope and duration of the use, the market value and demand of the work, and the negotiation between you and the owner. You should do some research and comparison before agreeing on a fee.


  • What if I can't find or reach the owner?



If you can't find or reach the owner, you have two options: either don't use the work or use it at your own risk. The first option is safer and more ethical, as it avoids infringing someone else's rights. The second option is riskier and less ethical, as it may result in legal and ethical problems. You should always try to find and reach the owner before using their work.


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