The Fair-use Myth

A popular myth in academic cultures is fair use. The doctrine provides situations where copyrighted works can be used without paying. It places restrictions on:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

Students and teachers alike get caught up in exemption number one. It is true that in a classroom situation you can use virtually any image you want for practice or class exercises. However, here is the problem: As soon as a student wants to start looking for a job and builds a portfolio, those images are being used for financial gain. If you are a student, you need to build work samples that help you get a job. Use images that you have the rights to (or that you have photographed).
The other clause that is often seen as a loophole is number four. People often think that because their project was small or personal that damage cannot be claimed. It is relatively easy for a copyright holder to claim damages or lost revenue. Even though they may not go after you, why take the chance? As a content creator, you should respect the law and the welfare of your fellow designers and photographers. For more on copyright and fair-use doctrine, visit and