Application of the Fair Use Doctrine in Intellectual Property and Search Engines Litigation

The United States (U.S.) Copyrights Legislation appears in title 17 of the United States Code (17 U.S.C.S –The Copyright Act). Title 17 U.S.C.S. §107 establishes the doctrine of Fair Use as a limitation to the exclusive rights conferred by copyrights laws. The Fair Use doctrine states that the “Fair Use” of a copyrighted work is not an infringement of a copyright. People may use copyrighted materials without the consent of the copyright holder as long as that use is “fair”. Courts have developed this fair use concept and held that the Fair Use doctrine “creates a limited privilege in those other than the owner of a copyright to use the copyrighted material in a reasonable manner without the owner’s consent. Fisher v. Dees, 794 F.2d 432, 435 (9th Cir. 1986). The fair use doctrine has been used as a defense in copyright infringement actions, including recent copyright actions against search engine companies. In January 2006, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Nevada made an inclusive analysis of the fair use doctrine in a copyright infringement case against Google, a well-known search engine company.

The following questions have been addressed in this article:

What are Cache Links?
Does the Use of Cache Links by Search Engine Companies Constitute Fair Use?
What are the Elements of a Fair Use Analysis and how the Courts may Interpret them?
How did the Court in Field v. Google Apply and Analyze the four Elements of the Fair Use Doctrine to the Use of Cache Links?


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