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- Wholesale copying of pages from a website to your own website.
- Scanning photographs of Heather Locklear from Cosmopolitan for your fan site.
- Including dozens of sound clips from Simpsons series on your web site. It is still a copyright violation regardless of whether you "borrowed" them from official Simpsons site or you recorded them from your own VCR.
- You are annoyed because your favorite encyclopedia site now charges a monthly fee instead of being ad supported. You include several articles directly on your own site so people will not have to pay fee to see articles.
These would not only violate copyright law, but they would also violate bandwidth stealing rules.
- Linking directly to a photo of Heather Locklear on Cosmopolitan site. You could do this legally by (a) asking and receiving permission, or (b) creating a link to HTML document on Cosmopolitan site which contains picture.
- Linking directly to sound files from official Simpsons site. You could legally, however, link to HTML pages on Simpsons site which contain WAV files.
- Linking directly to video clips from official Star Trek site. Again, you could link to pages containing video clips.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT LINKING Linking to pages within a web site besides entrance page is still being tested in court. To date it is considered acceptable practice - however, results of several recent court cases seem to indicate this is changing to "it's okay unless specifically excluded by web site". My personal opinion is to link to HTML pages to your hearts content, but to never link directly to graphics, sound files, videos and other media.
One of critical issues with fair use is definition itself. Many years ago a supreme court justice defined pornography simply as "I know it when I see it", and fair use is governed by a similar concept.
Another important consideration about fair use is copyright owner does not need to be and should not be asked for permission. Why? Because fair use is one of most important pieces of copyright law puzzle. It allows students to write papers, critics to criticize, authors to quote and researchers to research. By asking permission you are not invoking fair use and in fact you are, in a small way, weakening law. You do have right to make fair use of any work that exists (well, with exception of classified government documents and things covered under trade secrets laws and non-disclosure agreements).
If you are an author you have a right to your copyrights, and you also have a right to use other's works fairly. Laws are funny things, they are just words unless they are actively and constantly used, tested and upheld. Rights are even more important - if you don't use them you lose them.
Of course (and this does not violate my point above about not asking), you always have option of writing to copyright owner and directly asking for permission to use their works. You should do this if, in your own mind, you get some doubt about if you are using works fairly. More simply, when you find yourself doing more than including a few brief phrases, lines or a paragraph, then by all means ask.
The standard I like to use is simple. If I am using other's words to help illustrate or reinforce a point that I am making, then it's fair use. If, on other hand, I am using other's words to make point itself, well, then perhaps I need to ask permission. Illustration or reinforcement does not generally require many words - making a point often does.
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