“Fair use” of copyrighted works includes criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, so what about use of public documents? The recent class action copyright infringement suit brought against West and LexisNexis (White v. West) will likely turn on the “fair use” doctrine. The Copyright Office describes “fair use” in Section 107 of the Copyright Act:

Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair: 

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

  2. The nature of the copyrighted work

  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work 

To learn more about the copyright issues in the White v. West case please read my eCommerce Times legal column on entitled “Copyright Law vs. Public Court Documents.” 

What do you think about “fair use” of public documents?