The Fair Use Defense: What is it and How does it Apply to Businesses?

The proliferation of appropriation art—or art that intentionally copies another person’s work and alters it in some way—has been at the forefront of a series of copyright infringement cases over the last few decades. A common defense used in this age-old strategy is “fair use” under U.S. copyright law. This claim has provoked a longstanding debate among the industry. 

To some, the ability to claim “fair use” opens up the possibility to creatively expand upon existing visual works. However, others fear it opens up their material to exploitation at the hands of well-known artists and companies who make minor “cosmetic upgrades” and then take credit for the work as their own.

Of the 64 percent of professional photographers who had their work stolen in 2016, commercial businesses were responsible for 28 percent of the theft. 

As a business owner and decorator, it’s important to thoroughly understand the difference between “fair use” and copyright infringement to avoid costly lawsuits. But don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you. 

*Please note, this article should not be taken as legal advice. Always consult with your personal legal advisor before relying upon the information provided. 

The Fair Use Defense 

What is Fair Use?

“Fair use” is outlined in a set of guidelines found in Title 17, Section 107 of the U.S. copyright act. It allows the use of copyrighted materials without permission from the owner in specific cases. Essentially, the guidelines give people the ability to build upon the work of another so long as it doesn’t deprive the original artist of the right to “control and benefit from their works.” 

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