The legal concept of “copyright” was first ratified by the United Kingdom‘s Statute of Anne of 1709. As room was not made for the unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted content within this newly formulated statutory right, the courts gradually created a doctrine of “fair abridgement”, which later became “fair use”, that recognized the utility of such actions. The doctrine only existed in the U.S. as common law until it was incorporated into the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. Â§ 107, excerpted here:
Not withstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall includeâ€”
- the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
- the nature of the copyrighted work;
- the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
- the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.