Frequently asked questions about fair use
Fair use is a legal doctrine that says you can reuse copyright-protected material under certain circumstances without getting permission from the copyright owner.
There is some misinformation out there that might lead you to believe fair use automatically applies if you say a few magic words. There is actually no silver bullet that will guarantee you are protected by fair use when you use copyrighted material you don’t own.
Common fair use questions
1. The purpose and character, of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
Courts typically focus on whether the use is “transformative.” That is, whether it adds new expression or meaning to the original, or whether it merely copies from the original. Commercial uses are less likely to be considered fair, though it’s possible to monetize a video and still have one's usage be a fair use.
2. The nature of the copyright work
Using material from primarily factual works is more likely to be fair than using purely fictional works.
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
Borrowing small bits of material from an original work is more likely to be considered fair use than borrowing large portions. However, even a small taking may weigh against fair use in some situations if it constitutes the “heart” of the work.
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
Uses that harm the copyright owner’s ability to profit from his or her original work are less likely to be fair uses. Courts have sometimes made an exception under this factor in cases involving parodies.
Am I protected by fair use if...
Transformativeness is usually a key in the fair use analysis. Giving credit to the owner of a copyrighted work won’t by itself turn a non-transformative copy of their material into fair use. Phrases such as “all rights go to the author” and “I do not own” do not automatically mean you are making fair use of that material - nor do they mean you have the copyright owner’s permission.
Courts will look carefully at the purpose of your use in evaluating whether it is fair. Declaring your upload to be “for entertainment purposes only,” for example, is unlikely to tip the scales in the fair use balancing test. Similarly, “non-profit” uses are favored in the fair use analysis, but it’s not an automatic defense by itself.