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Copyright Tool: Fair Use Visualizer

Perhaps the most difficult area of copyright law is fair use.

Not only are the issues involved in fair use complicated and difficult to understand, but the answer is never satisfying. Since fair use can only be decided by a judge or jury and is handled on a case-by-case basis, there is no way to offer a definitive answer about what is or is not fair use. One can only determine the probability of the outcome based upon facts of the case.

However, the Copyright Website has a fair use visualizer that can help take some of the guesswork out of determining what is likely and unlikely to be considered fair use.

To use the visualizer, you must first have an idea about what kind of use you are planning. You then move the sliders to the appropriate positions to describe the use and check any relevant boxes. A bar graph at the top will tick up and down with each change, either inching up toward or away from the halfway mark, where a use becomes more likely to be fair than unfair.

Clearly this is just a rough estimate and should never be taken as legal advice. It also can’t take many variables into account such as the fifth fair use factor “Are you evil?”. However, it is great for a quick “second opinion” about the viability of a fair use argument in a case.

Please bear in mind that, as with all fair use claims, it will not prevent someone from suing you, it just might prevent them from collecting damages.

15 Responses to Copyright Tool: Fair Use Visualizer

  1. A good idea, but I think anyone who understands the meaning of all of the sliders and the values at both ends won't need the tool in the first place.

  2. JB says:

    Rich,True, the terms could use a little tweaking and some explaining. But it is still neat to see how the different variable interact with one another and what variables get the most weight.It's a fascinating toy, but you are right that the terms are a bit over the heads of your average citizen.Thank you for the comment!

  3. A good idea, but I think anyone who understands the meaning of all of the sliders and the values at both ends won’t need the tool in the first place.

  4. JB says:

    Rich,

    True, the terms could use a little tweaking and some explaining. But it is still neat to see how the different variable interact with one another and what variables get the most weight.

    It’s a fascinating toy, but you are right that the terms are a bit over the heads of your average citizen.

    Thank you for the comment!

  5. I agree with Rich, it's a tantalisingly great concept, but the way it's laid out is very confusing.

  6. JB says:

    Mark,Perhaps then these comments will motivate him to change it. I've already tried to talk with him and would gladly help.

  7. I agree with Rich, it’s a tantalisingly great concept, but the way it’s laid out is very confusing.

  8. JB says:

    Mark,

    Perhaps then these comments will motivate him to change it. I’ve already tried to talk with him and would gladly help.

  9. Jonathan,I'd be interested to hear if it is made a little clearer, or if an explanation is added to the site. It's a great idea, just a bit confusing in its current incarnation!

  10. Jonathan,

    I’d be interested to hear if it is made a little clearer, or if an explanation is added to the site. It’s a great idea, just a bit confusing in its current incarnation!

  11. Unfortunately, I'm in the group that just doesn't get it.. perhaps a tutorial? But then still, would the right people find the tool?

  12. Unfortunately, I’m in the group that just doesn’t get it.. perhaps a tutorial? But then still, would the right people find the tool?

  13. JB says:

    Mark: I'm sorry I didn't get an email about your comment. That is very strange.It is a bit confusing and needs some work, I have to agree with that. I'm really unsure though how he would simplify it too much. Right now it seems to be aimed toward being comprehensive. Too much simplification or explanation could hinder that. Cathy: It isn't a simple issue I'm afraid, even with this tool. I'll see about drafting a brief tutorial for a later update.

  14. No worries, would be interested if you write/unearth any instructions.

  15. [...] by Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today provides more information on Fair Use, and he also has an article on the “Fair Use Visualizer”, a tool from the US Copyright Office to help you estimate Fair Use: Not only are the issues [...]

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