How Can I Use a Copyrighted Work?

When deciding to use a work protected by copyright, the general rule is to seek permission from the copyright owner. Under the copyright law, a copyright owner may authorize activities that fall under the exclusive rights of copyright. For more information on seeking permission to use a copyrighted work, see How to Obtain Permission (Circular 16A).

Sections 107 to 122 of the copyright law contain provisions that establish limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner. The provisions make certain uses of copyrighted works permissible without first obtaining permission of the copyright owner. One of the most discussed of these
statutory provisions is known as fair use, a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. For more information on fair use, see the Office’s Fair Use Index on its website.

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