Fair Use, Plagiarism & Copyright Infringement Explained

Authors and publishers often face tough questions about copyright laws. I see a lot of ebook writers on various forums asking whether or not they are violating somebody’s trademarks or copyright laws. When they attempt to contact Amazon regarding that subject they are usually referred to consult with Amazon’s legal department or recommended to consult an attorney or copyright law professional.

So before you do either, let’s cover the basics of copyright laws. This is the same info you would get from copyright lawyer but free.


Fair use is a set of rules that permits limited use of copyrighted materials without acquiring permission from the rights holders.

Fair use definition by U.S. Copyright Office http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html
Complete version of the U.S. Copyright Law: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/
Factors for fair use: http://www.lib.purdue.edu/uco/CopyrightBasics/fair_use.html#factors

Example:  Examples of fair use can be often found in Hollywood movies that are based on real stories, such as latest “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Game Change”, where footage of Barack Obama’s speeches and also news reports were included.   TV shows such as “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” use various news footages for their parody sketches.


Plagiarism is defined as using others’ ideas and words without clearly acknowledging the source of that information.

Mariam Webster definition: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plagiarizing
Examples of plagiarism:
Famous cases in music: http://www.fairwagelawyers.com/most-famous-music-copyright-infringment.html

Example. Example of plagiarism on Internet is content scrapping.



Copyright Infringement occurs when someone other than the copyright holder copies the work without owner’s permission. Section 501 of the U.S. copyright law states that “anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner …is an infringer of the copyright or right of the author.” Copyright law protect written works, paintings, photographs, choreography, drawings (including digital), films, music (and lyrics), sculptures.

Copyright infringement exceptions are fair use, public domain work, and non-copyrightable works.


U.S. Copyright law FAQs: http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-definitions.html
What if your work has been infringed: http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-infringement.html

Copyright Infringement Penalties:  http://www.lib.purdue.edu/uco/CopyrightBasics/penalties.html

Example: Downloading copyright protected pictures from other websites and reposting it to your own site or reselling them is a copyright infringement.


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