Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Copyright Resources

This page contains resources suggested by the Copyright Awareness Team

Court Decisions

Cases Involving Text

Fair Use

A biographer of Richard Wright quoted from six unpublished letters and ten unpublished journal entries by Wright. Important factors: No more than 1% of Wright’s unpublished letters were copied and the purpose was informational. (Wright v. Warner Books, Inc., 953 F.2d 731 (2d Cir. 1991).)
The black comedy, Hand to God, features the famed Abbott and Costello routine “Who’s on First?” The routine is spoken by a repressed character, whose hand puppet persona mocks him for pretending to be the author of the routine. Important factors: Though the use of the routine in the movie and play both elicit laughs, the play’s usage is transformative because the audience must be aware of the original in order to “get the joke.” TCA Television Corp. v. McCollum, No. 15 Civ. 4325 (S.D. N.Y. Dec. 17, 2017).

Not Fair Use

The Nation magazine published excerpts from ex-President Gerald Ford’s unpublished memoirs. These excerpts were published several weeks prior to the date Mr. Ford’s book was to be serialized in another magazine. Important factors: The Nation’s copying seriously damaged the marketability of Mr. Ford’s serialization rights. (Harper & Row v. Nation Enters., 471 U.S. 539 (1985).)
A biographer paraphrased large portions of unpublished letters written by the famed author J.D. Salinger. Although people could read these letters at a university library, Salinger had never authorized their reproduction. In other words, the first time that the general public would see these letters was in their paraphrased form in the biography. Salinger successfully sued to prevent publication. Important factors: The letters were unpublished and were the “backbone” of the biography—so much so that without the letters the resulting biography was unsuccessful. In other words, the letters may have been taken more as a means of capitalizing on the interest in Salinger than in providing a critical study of the author. (Salinger v. Random House, 811 F.2d 90 (2d Cir. 1987).)
An author copied more than half of an unpublished manuscript to prove that someone was involved in the overthrow of the Iranian government. Important factors: A substantial portion was taken (half of the work) and the work had not been published yet. (Love v. Kwitny, 772 F.Supp. 1367 (S.D. N.Y., 1989).)
A company published a book entitled Welcome to Twin Peaks: A Complete Guide to Who’s Who and What’s What, containing direct quotations and paraphrases from the television show Twin Peaks, as well as detailed descriptions of plots, characters, and setting. Important factors: The amount of the material taken was substantial and the publication adversely affected the potential market for authorized books about the program. (Twin Peaks v. Publications Int’l, Ltd.,996 F.2d 1366 (2d Cir. 1993).)
Although the creation of a Harry Potter encyclopedia was determined to be “slightly transformative” (because it made the Harry Potter terms and lexicons available in one volume), this transformative quality was not enough to justify a fair use defense. Important factors: An important factor in the court’s decision was the extensive verbatim use of text from the Harry Potter books. (Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. v. RDR Books, 575 F.Supp.2d 513 (S.D. N.Y. 2008).)


Cases Involving the Internet

Fair Use

The Washington Post used three brief quotations from Church of Scientology texts posted on the Internet. Important factors: Only a small portion of the work was excerpted and the purpose was for news commentary. (Religious Technology Center v. Pagliarina, 908 F.Supp. 1353 (E.D. Va., 1995).)
A real estate blog copied the first eight sentences from a news­paper article. Important factors. The blogger had copied only eight sentences and had not copied the “valuable” section (the commentary included with the article), and the court did not believe that the copying would affect the market for the article (the third and fourth fair use factors). Righthaven LLC v. Realty One Group, Inc., No. 2:10-cv-LRH-PAL, 2010 WL 4115413 (D. Nev., October 19, 2010).
A user of an online political forum posted a five-sentence excerpt from a newspaper article with a link back to the newspaper’s website. Important factors: The use was quantitatively small and did not cause the newspaper financial harm. In addition, the online political forum was permitted to use the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Righthaven LLC v. Democratic Underground, No. 2:10-cv-01356-RLH (GWF).

Not Fair Use





The above is from  Standford University, accessed 11-10-2017

Maps and Directions