Fair Use Guidelines Governing Copyrights in Minnesota

When you create an original work, such as a novel, a musical composition, a photograph, computer software, or even website content, you hold the copyright in that work. You get to decide how it gets used: who can copy it, who can display it, who can perform it, and under what conditions. . In most circumstances, that means no one can use your work without your permission.

But as is often the case in the law, there are exceptions. Sometimes other parties can use your copyrighted material for specific purposes, even without your permission. Copyright law allows other people to make “fair use” of copyrighted material for a limited and “transformative” purpose. So, what does this mean? Below is a brief overview of the fair use guidelines so you and other Minneapolis creators can understand your rights a bit more clearly.

Fair Use For “Transformative” Purposes

Section 107 of the Copyright Act says reproducing a copyrighted work “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” This isn’t a blank check to copy somebody else’s work. Rather, fair use tries to balance the rights of creators against the need for free expression. In the right circumstances, it allows the use of a portion of a copyrighted work — but only to the extent necessary to serve one of the fair use purposes. For instance, fair use typically protects a music reviewer who quotes a few lyrics in the body of their review but doesn’t allow the reviewer to distribute copies of the entire song. Parodies — a form of commentary — inevitably borrow from their source material, and fair use often protects the creators of the parody from accusations of infringement.

Distinguishing Fair Use From Infringement

To determine whether someone’s copying is infringement or fair use, judges consider four factors from Section 107:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.


Dozens — maybe hundreds — of court decisions interpret these factors and how they should apply to any given set of facts. So court disputes over fair use can be complex, and it’s essential to enlist a trusted IP attorney’s guidance to help you navigate this process.

How a Minneapolis IP Law Attorney Can Help

Fair use disputes are often highly subjective and complicated, which is why working with an experienced IP law attorney is the best way to achieve a favorable outcome. Whether you’re facing accusations of copyright infringement or you’re concerned that another party has infringed upon your intellectual property rights, reach out to a knowledgeable copyright attorney right away to discuss your options for moving forward.


To learn more about your options for resolving copyright or IP infringement disputes in the Minneapolis area, call Rubric Legal LLC today at (612) 465-0074.

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