So you have a fair use question?
You have a fair use question. Congratulations on exercising your fair use rights, which expand your freedom of expression!
Your first resort, when you have a fair use question, is to find out if a community has created a code of best practices in fair use that would apply to you. Here is a list of the extant codes of best practices in fair use:
You'll read the relevant documents, and ask yourself which situation or category best fits your case.
You'll ask yourself if your use falls within the fair use principles and limitations discussed.
If you are comfortable with the fit between your practice and the best practices discussed in the codes, then proceed with confidence in your fair use. If you have doubts, test out your rationale for your practice with colleagues and friends who can help you test your reasoning.
In some cases you might want to look at more resources on the fair use page. For instance, there are many good examples of successful fair use in documentary film available on the site, here.
We also post a new fair use question and answer every month. Check through these to see if there's one that's similar to your question, and maybe the answer will help you, too. For more Fair Use Questions of the Month, check here.
If you will be consulting with a lawyer, make sure you bring a copy of the relevant code of best practices with you to the lawyer's office. Your lawyer may not be up to date on current practice!
If you find that your query falls outside a community's code of best practices, you can always ask yourself the two most basic questions that any fair user inevitably must ask:
1) am I reusing copyrighted material for its original purpose (for which there is a market) or am I repurposing/transforming the material?
2) am I only using as much as is appropriate for that new use?
The Center has been active in facilitating the creation of codes of best practices by several communities, in conjunction with the Washington College of Law at American University. All of the Codes of Best Practices have been scrutinized and approved by legal advisory committee. But no one at the Center for Social Media is a lawyer and no one can help you reach a fair use determination.
If you need pro bono legal assistance, there are Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts chapters in many cities. You might also, if you have the time, consider presenting your problem to an intellectual property clinic (a service of law students under supervision by their professors) at one of these locations:
Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University, Cambridge MA
Center for Intellectual Property Law and Information Technology, DePaul University College of Law, Chicago IL
Franklin Pierce Law Center, Pierce Law, Concord NH
Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic Washington College of Law, American University, Washington, DC
Intellectual Property and the Arts Clinic, Vanderbilt University Law Schoo, Nashville, TN
Intellectual Property and Nonprofit Organizations Clinic, Washington University Law School Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic, Gould School of Law, University of Southern California, Los Angeles CA
Intellectual Property Law Clinic, University of Maine School of Law, Portland ME
Intellectual Property Law Clinic, William Mitchell College of Law, Minneapolis MN
Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, CA
Samuelson-Glushko Intellectual Property and Information Law Clinic, Fordham School of Law, Fordham University, New York
If you have read through the codes and considered all of the points addresses above and still feel that you have a fair use question, use the form below to submit your inquiry.