When a person files for copyright, it means they want exclusive rights to something they have created, whether it is a piece of art or a romance novel they wrote. Either way, the idea was theirs and they want to ensure that no one else steals their work. Thus, if someone else comes along and uses their idea or passes it off as their own, the person who holds the copyright can claim that this second person is infringing on their copyright. When this happens, the person who originally created the object could get compensated for money the other person made off of their idea. However, a patent attorney, knows that one of the most popular defenses a person might have when they use a person’s copyrighted materials is that they had “fair use.” This means that under certain circumstances a person can use copyright materials without the creator authorizing it.
How do we determine fair use?
This usually happens in a series of steps:
- Person A creates an original work and gets it copyrighted.
- Person B uses that work without Person A’s permission.
- Person A files a lawsuit for copyright infringement.
- Person B states that the infringement is okay because it falls under fair use.
When this occurs, a court is usually left to determine if it falls under the fair use doctrine by looking at four factors.
- The court will look at the nature of the material that was copyrighted.
- The court will want to look at whether the person who is allegedly infringing on the copyright is using the material for personal, monetary gain/commercial use or if they are using the material for educational purposes.
- The court will want to know how much of the material the person used and whether they used all of it or just a portion.
- The court will want to see if monetary damages were done to the author of the original work.
What if a person acknowledges where the original source came from?
While this may help during a lawsuit, it will not automatically be the only defense a person needs to use if they are found infringing on someone’s copyrighted materials. Just because a person cites a source after using another person’s material does not make it okay. It can help to show that you are not trying to pass off another person’s original material as your own, though.
If you have any more questions on copyrighted materials and would like to speak with an intellectual property attorney, please contact a law office now.