How much of another person’s work can I use and still be protected by fair use?

How much of another person’s work can I use and still be protected by fair use?
It would make things very easy if there was a cutoff to know where fair use ends and where copyright infringement begins. But for a variety of reasons, there is no simple test.
Thus, no matter what anyone tells you about how many paragraphs of an article you can copy or how many seconds of a song that you can clip, that advice is probably worthless. Instead, what is and isn’t infringement is governed by the very subjective fair use test.
The easiest way is to look at the factors and weigh them out based on your own common sense. The next step, the path that a lawyer would take, would be to read lots of cases on the subject and then compare the real-world facts of those cases.
There’s an often cited case that shows the subjectivity of fair use called Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises, which came from a situation where The Nation magazine copied more than 300 words from President Gerald Ford’s as-yet unpublished memoirs detailing the reasons why he pardoned his predecessor Richard Nixon—a point of much public interest that, now made public through a widely distributed magazine, damaged the memoir’s commercial value for publisher Harper & Row. As a result, the court rejected Nation Enterprises’ fair use defense, declaring their use infringing.
If you have any questions about how much is too much for fair use, feel free to contact New Media Rights via our contact form to find out whether you qualify for free or reduced fee legal services. We also offer competitive full fee legal services on a selective basis. For more information on the services we provide click here.
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