Fair use is a copyright principle based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism. If you write or publish, you need at least a basic understanding of what is and is not fair use.
When a work is no longer protected under copyright law, it is said to be "in the public domain." Most works enter the public domain because their copyrights have expired. To find out whether a work is available to use without permission, check when it was published, whether the copyright has expired, and whether the copyright has been renewed.
If you use samples in your commercially released music, you often need legal permission -- referred to as sample clearance. Failure to get the proper permission could lead to serious consequences: lawsuits or the inability to distribute your music to the public. But you don't always need permission. It pays to learn when you do and don't need sample clearance.
Usually teachers may tape TV programs and show them to students without violating copyright law if they follow a set of guidelines called the "Guidelines for Off-Air Recording of Broadcast Programming for Educational Purposes". Many PBS programs allow teachers to tape and use programs without following the rules set forth in the guidelines.
If you plan to use samples in your musical compositions, you may need to get permission to avoid legal trouble. Unfortunately, getting permission is not always easy. Here are some ways an independent artist can obtain sample clearance.
Several years ago, a show called "The Young Riders" aired in syndication. I taped all the episodes and now people are asking me to send them copies of all the episodes. Can I legally charge these individuals $5 per episode due to my time and the wear and tear on my machines?
I am an artist who uses books as my medium. I buy a published book and I add collage, paint, and drawings, and otherwise alter the pages. I don't usually cover all of the text. Does this violate copyright laws, or is it the equivalent of accidentally dropping the book in a mud puddle?
I'm writing a book that deals with a long-running news story. I'm getting my facts from newspapers and magazines and turning the story into a novel, based on fact. Do I have to get the sources' permissions to use the facts? How do I give proper credit in the book to these sources?
I am interested in scanning images of angels from recent books on religious art -- all printed within the last 20 years -- and putting them on greeting cards for resale. The artwork I want to scan was painted or drawn more than 200 years ago. Do I have to get the permission of the publishers of the books before proceeding?
I am about to launch a fan site for a particular actress. I'd like to include a couple of short video clips showing her performing go-go at a nightclub, plus some photos. Will I run into any copyright problems? Does it make a difference whether the site is for paying members only?
Over the years I have taken quite a few pictures of automobiles at various car show events. I would like to use the photos to create several calendars and market these calendars. Am I violating any law by using these pictures in the calendar? Do I need to get any type of permission from the owners?
I am an artist who paints from photos. I would like to use clips from video and TV films and ads. I wouldn't copy the exact image, but if you were to put the two images together, you would see a strong similarity. Do I need permission? P.S. I'm from Australia but might exhibit in the U.S. in the future.
I am creating amateur animation on the Web. I would like to use a portion of an instrumental song on a CD for the animation I am creating. I have heard that a certain amount of a song can be used in this manner -- not for profit -- without requiring permission. Is this true? If so, what are the guidelines for using this copyrighted material?