It seems that the thin line separating the legal fair use of copyrighted material the much frowned upon copyright infringement is eroding. The laws are so blurry these days that it’s hard to tell who is using other people’s ideas legally and who is breaking the law. So this begs the question:
What is fair use?
According to Dictionary.com, fair use is defined as “the conditions under which you can use material that is copyrighted by someone else without paying royalties.”
What are those conditions?
In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use
So can you see how this can get confusing? What exactly is in play and what will land you in jail are often separated by just a minor technicality or two. It’s scary to think that you could just be attempting to borrow someone’s work for a class project or something and if you don’t use it precisely in the correct way, the book gets thrown at you.
In recent years, this has become much more of a problem that it had been because of the wide range use of sampling and remixing. So please pay attention the next time you want to borrow your favorite scene from “Aladdin” because that 30 second clip could cost you an awful lot.