When you create or enjoy a fanwork, whether you know it or not, you are usually relying on the laws of fair use and fair dealing. These laws--known as fair use in some countries (including the U.S.) and fair dealing in others (including Canada and the U.K.)--are what allow fans to make and post fanworks based on pre-existing copyrighted work without being copyright infringers. Every year, organizations across the Internet celebrate this set of laws and all of the wonderful creativity they promote.
Fair use and fair dealing laws provide that certain uses of copyrighted material are not infringing, even if they are done without the permission of the copyright holder. Fair use laws favor uses that transform the meaning or purpose of an underlying work, that are distributed noncommercially, that use limited amounts of the underlying work, and that do not compete with the underlying work in the market. Fair dealing laws also favor transformative uses such as parody, commentary, criticism, and noncommercial user-generated content. The OTW stands for the proposition that transformative, noncommercial fanworks are fair use. OTW’s Legal advocacy project works to make sure that stays true, and to make sure that governments around the world recognize the value of fair use and fair dealing in making and interpreting their laws.
In the past, we’ve answered your questions about fair use and fair dealing, exploded some fair use misconceptions, and talked about how fair use and fair dealing laws apply to fanworks. We encourage you to check out those things, and the many wonderful posts and events that other organizations are putting on this week. We invite you to reach out to OTW Legal with your questions about fair use and copyright. And finally, we hope you celebrate fair use/fair dealing week this year by engaging in some fair use of your own!