We explain Fair Use which allows people to use pictures for free under some conditions. Specifically, it provides exemptions for commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news, research, and scholarship. While it's never black-and-white, courts make fair use judgment calls based on four criteria:
1) Purpose of use (such as commercial, nonprofit, or educational). Uses can be more than one of these, such as both commercial and educational. Being commercial doesn't prevent fair use, and being educational or nonprofit doesn't give you fair use under all conditions.
2) The nature of the copyrighted work. The more creative it is, the harder it is to claim it under fair use. For example, a strictly informational picture of a skyline would be easier to claim under fair use than a creative model photoshoot or light painting.
3) The amount of the copyrighted work that's used. If you only show a small portion of a video, for example, odds are you can claim Fair Use. If you show an entire movie, you probably can't claim Fair Use.
4) The effect on the market for the copyrighted work. If you publish a movie for free and that stops people from paying to see that movie, it's almost certainly not fair use. However, if using a copyrighted work doesn't reduce the value of the work commercially, then it's more likely to be fair use.
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