What is “fair use”, and how does it apply to copyright law?

Fair Use is a legally permissible use of copyrighted material for specific purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching or scholarship. For more information about fair use, see:   http://ogc.harvard.edu/pages/copyright-and-fair-use  .   The best course of action is to get permission from a copyright holder before using their work. If the copyright holder does not agree that your use qualifies as “fair”, legal action can be brought against you.  Downloading and distributing copyrighted materials without authorization from the rights-holder is never an example of fair use.