Register Account

Login Help

Fair Use Information

Can you ever use copyrighted material and under what conditions? 

PIO's should be familiar with the concept of "fair use" of copyrighted materials.

Two web resources are:

(be sure to include ALL of the Stanford URL - it may be line-wrapped).


More info also comes from TJ’s Insights – a professional PR resource.

Note to below…

You CAN reprint this without permission as long as you provide the following link to TJ’s Insights with it and 212-764-4955.


TJ’s Insights
June 27, 2006

What is “Fair Use” and What is Stealing?

What do you do if you want to use a part of a movie, TV show or newspaper article in a speech or presentation you are giving?

Here is an example of what you can’t do:

1. Show an Anthony Robbins motivational speaking video in its entirety, and charge admission for people to watch it. In this case, you are infringing on Robbins’ right to make money off of his intellectual property. You didn’t get permission. And you are making money off of the video that, presumably, is money Robbins could be making.

2. You can’t conduct a 90 minute seminar on how to be funny and then show three episodes of Seinfeld in their entirety. This is taking too much, and you are adding nothing.

But this doesn’t mean that you can never use an excerpt of a movie, TV show or newspaper article for your speech or presentation. But you need to keep several things in mind. According to 19th century copyright law still in place, you can use someone else’s intellectual property under the Fair Use doctrine if the following things are true.

1. You are a journalist, educator or critic. (I like this criteria because any speaker or expert can fit into the category of critic.)

2. You are adding some form of criticism, opinion or analysis to the piece of intellectual content. (that’s why you can’t sell a video of David Letterman’s opening monologues, even though you aren’t selling the whole show.)

3. You are only using a quote or excerpt needed to make a point, nothing longer.

4. You are not undermining the economic value of the property.

I often quote the New York Times and other news outlets for my own columns and commentaries, but I am sure to follow the above rules. I am not simply running a whole story unedited. Instead I use a quote and then I offer criticism through the specific prism of speaking expertise to make my own point, not the point of the original author or producer. I am, in a sense, changing the content into a new and different piece of content. Since I am using only a small quote, the New York Times can not contend that I am undermining the value of their property because no one would suggest that Times subscribers would cancel their subscriptions just because I used a brief quote and they can now get all of their news from me

Society deems that it is in the public interest to allow people to use copyrighted materials in this fashion, but make certain you follow the above criteria. This means you can’t use the whole “Rocky” theme song as an introduction to your speech without paying for the rights to that song (but you could use a 10 second clip if you want to comment on its ability to create mood).

These are the general principles of Copyright, but when in doubt, consult an intellectual property lawyer.


Instragram     Facebook     Twitter     YouTube     LinkedIn