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Copyright: Fair Use for Online Video: common situations

Basic copyright information and guidance

The information in this section is excerpted from 
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video 

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Examples and guidelines

COMMENT ON OR CRITIQUE OF COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 

example: parody or comment on an example of popular culture

LIMITATIONS: The use should not be so extensive or pervasive that it ceases to function as critique and becomes, instead, a way of satisfying the audience's taste for the thing (or the kind of thing) that is being quoted. In other words, the new use should not become a market substitute for the work (or other works like it).

USING COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL FOR ILLUSTRATION OR EXAMPLE 

example: clips from Hollywood films might be used to demonstrate changing American attitudes toward race

LIMITATIONS: To the extent possible and appropriate, illustrative quotations should be drawn from a range of different sources; and each quotation (however many may be employed to create an overall pattern of illustrations) should be no longer than is necessary to achieve the intended effect. Properly attributing material, whether in the body of the text, in credits, or in associated material will often reduce the likelihood of complaints or legal action and may bolster a maker's fair use claim.

CAPTURING COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL INCIDENTALLY OR ACCIDENTALLY 

example: filming a wedding dance where copyrighted music is playing

LIMITATION: In order to take advantage of fair use in this context, the video maker should be sure that the particular media content played or displayed was not requested or directed; that the material is integral to the scene or its action; that the use is not so extensive that it calls attention to itself as the primary focus of interest; and that where possible, the material used is properly attributed. 

REPRODUCING, REPOSTING, OR QUOTING IN ORDER TO MEMORIALIZE, PRESERVE, OR RESCUE AN EXPERIENCE, AN EVENT, OR A CULTURAL PHENOMENON 

example: someone may post a controversial or notorious moment from broadcast television or a public event

LIMITATION: Fair use reaches its limits when the entertainment content is reproduced in amounts that are disproportionate to purposes of documentation, or in the case of archiving, when the material is readily available from authorized sources. 

COPYING, REPOSTING, AND RECIRCULATING A WORK OR PART OF A WORK FOR PURPOSES OF LAUNCHING A DISCUSSION 

example: they want to share that work or portion of a work because they have a connection to it and want to spur a discussion about it based on that connection

LIMITATIONS: The purpose of the copying and posting needs to be clear; the viewer needs to know that the intent of the poster is to spur discussion. The mere fact that a site permits comments is not enough to indicate intent. The poster might title a work appropriately so that it encourages comment, or provide context or a spur to discussion with an initial comment on a site, or seek out a site that encourages commentary. 

QUOTING IN ORDER TO RECOMBINE ELEMENTS TO MAKE A NEW WORK THAT DEPENDS FOR ITS MEANING ON (OFTEN UNLIKELY) RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE ELEMENTS 

example: creating new works entirely out of existing ones, just as in the past artists have made collages and pastiches, such as A Fair(y) Use Tale

LIMITATIONS: If a work is merely reused without significant change of context or meaning, then its reuse goes beyond the limits of fair use. Similarly, where the juxtaposition is a pretext to exploit the popularity or appeal of the copyrighted work employed, or where the amount of material used is excessive, fair use should not apply. For example, fair use will not apply when a copyrighted song is used in its entirety as a sound track for a newly created video simply because the music evokes a desired mood rather than to change its meaning; when someone sings or dances to recorded popular music without comment, thus using it for its original purpose; or when newlyweds decorate or embellish a wedding video with favorite songs simply because they like those songs or think they express the emotion of the moment.