You may be wondering if there are certain situations where you can use someone else’s copyrighted work without their consent. The short answer is no—you cannot use an entire work without the author’s permission. However, limited use of that work under certain circumstances may be acceptable under the ‘fair use’ rule.

The “fair use” rule is the belief that the public should be allowed to use limited portions of copyrighted material without permission for the purposes of criticism and/or commentary. Determining whether or not fair use is applicable can be tricky, so it’s recommended you consult a Denver copyright attorney for advice.

Fair use generally applies to the following examples of usage:

  • A teacher photocopies a few passages from a work of literature for classroom discussion.
  • A comedy show parodies a scene from a movie in satirical way.
  • While writing a critique, a blogger quotes a few sentences from an online article he read.
  • A researcher quotes a short passage from a scientific study to support her theory for a paper she is writing.

The above examples only apply to published works. Quoting or copying from unpublished works to which the author has not authorized its release, regardless of how limited, no longer falls under fair use.  In this case, you are infringing upon the authors right to decide when the work will go public.

The safest way to prevent infringement is to get permission from the author before using any parts of their work. If getting permission is an unfeasible option, it’s advisable to consult a Denver copyright attorney.