If there are hot issues in copyright, then surely a real thorny one is copyright and fair use. Are fair use laws fair and if so, to whom? The problem with fair use is that it’s a slippery thing and hard to keep a hold on the definition as it seems to often be changing. The easiest thing to do for the time being is to spell out what exactly fair use is.
It’s simply too easy to launch into some hysterical or even calm discussion of fair use or any other copyright or e-book related matter without knowing the basic facts behind the argument, and this reminds me too much of dinners at home in which everyone is speaking at once and yet nobody has done the proper research to know with any authority what it is in god’s name they are talking about. I swore as a child that as a journalist I would research thoroughly, and though I may at times be wrong, or my sources unreliable, I would do my very best to see that they were not and that things added up as they said they were.
Here, instead of relying solely on government guidelines, I checked with various universities since they often deal with fair use more than anyone for paper handouts and things of this nature, book excerpts; music schools, sequences of music; television and media related classes and schools and so on deal in that media or mixed media. So - what I’ve done here is followed what many schools have done, which is to break the subject of fair use down into what the law says is acceptable and then we can have a discussion about whether or not this is fair and/or equitable. This much makes sense to me and I hope it does to you too.
One essential rule of thumb to remember is that it is not you who will be deciding this, but the publisher of the particular piece. You’ll have to decide first, but hold yourself to a high standard because, unfortunately, it will be the copyright holder that you are up against, and remember that fees for breaking copyright law run high and can even, as noted in a previous piece, run into the millions.
Here are some basic guidelines, though note that I’ve edited these down a fair amount and added text from other sources to make these a bit easier to understand because the issues are quite complicated. The general rule of thumb is no more than 10% or 30 seconds of the work.