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Fair use principle

What is the fair use principle?>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The fair use principle is a term from copyright law. It regulates the extent to which copyrighted material may be used for one’s own purposes. Knowing which types of uses are appropriate and which are not is of great importance for private and commercial website operators. Fair use is particularly common in the USA. In Germany, among other things, the right of citation applies.

The rules of the fair use principle

The use of copyrighted content is considered fair, reasonable and therefore legal in the following scenarios:

  • Reviews and critics
  • Comments
  • Newspaper reviews
  • Educational purposes
  • Research purposes

Within the scope of the above uses, quoting from the copyrighted work, using an image, or summarizing the content is allowed.

In order to decide in detail whether a content falls under the fair use principle, there are four factors that must be considered.

Purpose and character

The question here is whether the protected work or parts of it are being used commercially or for informational purposes. For example, a review of a motion picture on a website may use photographs from the film. A published e-book may not use a photograph of that film as a cover.

Nature of the protected work

A distinction is made here between fictional and fact-based works. The latter are more likely to fall under fair use.

Extent of use

Short passages of text are generally fair use, while longer passages may be more likely to constitute copyright infringement.

Impact on the potential market

Fair use does not exist if the use interferes with the author’s ability to make a profit. An example of this is a website that quotes and annotates a scholarly book so extensively that it renders the purchase of the book void for students and interested parties.


You will often find phrases such as “All rights reserved by the copyright holder” or “Use purely for entertainment” under third-party content. These have no legal effect and do not protect against a possible copyright lawsuit.

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about fair use

Platforms such as Youtube temporarily block videos that do not fall under fair use, giving users the option, for example, to exchange copyrighted music for freely usable music. Generally, the copyright holder has the right to injunctive relief and, if necessary, damages at any time.
In German-speaking countries, the term fair use is also used for contracts with flat rates and unlimited offers. Internet providers, for example, can invoke the fair use policy if a customer has a strongly above-average data consumption. In English-speaking countries, however, the term Fair Usage Policy is used for this clause.

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