With the development of contemporary technology, it is now simpler to replicate or spread anything that was once published by another person. For example- People record movies in cinema halls and then upload them illegally on third-party websites to gain monetary profit. There are other different ways through which people misuse the content that has been originally published by the real author. As a result, several nations have formed their own copyright laws to safeguard the owners’ exclusive rights. An author or producer needs to preserve their original work from copy or misuse by others so that they can get the best results out of the efforts that they have made in producing their original content. However, there are several exceptions to the rule under the copyright laws of India and the USA that permit a third party to utilize the original work of the copyright owner for study and teaching without the owner’s consent. In the United States, this idea is known as fair use, whereas in India it is known as fair dealing. The fundamental definition of copyright as well as the ideas of fair use and fair dealing will be covered in this article. We shall contrast the two legal concepts as well.


Copyright simply refers to the exclusive rights given to the owner of intellectual property. This implies that, despite the fact that they may also provide permission for the same to another person, the original creator of a given work retains the only and exclusive right to copy the work. Moreover, to protect the original work under copyright laws, the exact must be produced in a tangible form.


According to U.S. Copyright Office, The term “copyright” refers to the exclusive rights that are legally granted to copyright holders in order to protect their works.

On the other hand, Indian law defines Copyright in section 14 of the Copyright Act of 1957”. Section 14 of the Copyright Act of 1957 describes copyright as a collection of exclusive rights granted to the original author.

As mentioned above, both countries allow people to use copyrighted work under certain exceptions. In India, this idea is known as “Fair Dealing,” but in the United States it is known as “Fair Use.”  Therefore, we can say that in both countries, Copyright is not absolute but is subjected to certain limitations and exceptions.


Fair Use is a legal doctrine that overrides the author’s rights in the US and permits limited uses of copyrighted content without the author’s consent. The concept of Fair Use acts as a defense for the third party that is using the original content of the author in a limited sense. According to the concept of Fair Use, it does not mean that any third party can reproduce the complete material published by the author. But excerpts from the work are allowed as long as they don’t steal the author’s principal concept from the original copyrighted content.

“Justice Joseph Story established the principles of fair use in the US in the case of “Folsom v. Marsh”. This case also introduced the concept of the four-factor test used as a basis of “fair use” doctrine in the US.

U.S. law does not specify any act which would be considered in the category of fair use. Still, it provides a four-factor test to assess whether the third party which has used the author’s original content falls under the purview of fair use notion or not. The factors considered under this doctrine are as follows:

  • The purpose and character of the use;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount of copyrighted work that is used;
  • The effect of the use on the potential market.

The factors that are considered most important are the first and fourth factors. We will analyse each factor in detail to properly understand the concept of a “four-factor test under the fair use notion.

(1)  The purpose and the character of THE use: This factor primarily focuses on the purpose due to which the third party has used the original author’s content. If the usage is for profit, it is less likely to be considered fair use, and if it is not, the content is more likely to fall under the definition of fair use.

(2) Nature of Work: This element mostly considers the type of work, particularly if it is more imaginative or factual. A claim of fair use is less likely to be supported by the use of more creative work than it is by the use of more factual material, which is more likely to be accepted as fair use.

(3) The amount used: This element takes into account how much copyrighted content is utilized by the third party.”. When a small amount of copyrighted material is used by a third party, in that case, it has a higher chance to be considered under the notion of fair use, but when a more considerable amount of copyrighted material is used, the content has a lesser chance to be considered under the notion of fair use.

(4) The effect of the use on the potential market: The content that was duplicated by the third party has less of a possibility of being taken into account under the concept of fair use if the use of the copyrighted work is hurting the original author’s existing or prospective market in any way.


In Wright v. Warner Books, Inc. – 953 F.2d 731 (2d Cir. 1991) Only 1% of Wright’s unpublished letters were copied, and as the copying was done only for educational purposes, the court ruled that the reuse fell within the parameters of fair use.

In Cambridge Univ. Press v. Patton – 769 F.3d 1232 (11th Cir. 2014), On remand, the second consideration (the academic nature of the work) and the fourth consideration (the effect of the usage on market value) favored fair use.


Any content that is thought to be copyrighted under the Indian Copyright Act of 1957 is protected by law, with the exception of the fair dealing concept. A person may use copyrighted material covered by the aforementioned legislation in a restricted way in accordance with a legal principle that preserves the work’s uniqueness.

Some of the acts which do not constitute copyright infringement under the notion of Fair Dealing are as follows:

Fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work for:

  • Research or private study;
  • Criticism or review.

Fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work for:

  • Reporting current events in a newspaper, magazine, or through broadcast.

Consequently, it is clear that the doctrine of fair dealing permits a third party to use copyrighted material for research and educational purposes. It also allows the third party to use the author’s original material for criticism or review. Moreover, the copyrighted material can also be used to report current events in a newspaper or magazine. It does not mean that the third party can reproduce the whole content of the original author. It should be reproduced in a limited sense to maintain the originality of the work which the real author has published.


In Ashdown v. Telegraph Group, The court determined that publishing excerpts of a political party’s private diary minutes in a newspaper did not qualify as fair dealing since it was done for commercial gain.

In Civic Chandran v. Amminni Amma, The court determined that fair dealing under the Copyright Act of 1957 would apply to criticism of original work that does not constitute inappropriate use of original material.


If we compare the established doctrines of both countries, one may argue that the U.S. doctrine is a broader concept and gives more protection against copyright infringement.

On the other hand, the Indian doctrine, which is named Fair Dealing, only protects those infringements which have been established in the copyright laws. “In India, there is no statutory definition of the amount that qualifies as fair dealing when a third party uses the copyrighted content that an author has published.” At least, “the Fair Use doctrine of the U.S. mentions the amount of work that an individual is supposed to use from the copyrighted material based on which it is decided whether the notion of fair use is suitable or not”. Due to the fair use doctrine’s increased flexibility and intricacy, even Indian courts occasionally make reference to it when handling a variety of cases.

It is reasonable to say that both concepts are comparable, despite the fact that the U.S. copyright rules are more clearly stated. India should thus update its “theory of fair dealing” in accordance with the “doctrine of fair use” and include the four-factor test into its laws in order to safeguard the copyright owner’s exclusive rights.

Author(s) Name: Sanskar Garg (Asian Law College)

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