1

I once asked a question on tex.SE about a (LaTeX) title page template that my university provides for master's theses.

Since the people over at tex.SE require Minimal Working Examples, I uploaded a short document containing the title page template and showing what problem I had with it (you may follow my profile to find the question).

Was this allowed by copyright law? In particular, to my complete layman's mind, it seems like this could be covered under Fair Use.

The university's homepage provides the template without any login, license or copyright notice.

2

Whether a use of a copyrighted work is defensible under fair use (in the U.S.) is always a case-by-case determination based on the four fair use factors.

I'm not a lawyer (nor would my opinion be a sure bet even if I were), but generally, your fair use outlook seems reasonably good in this case.

  • Purpose and character of your use: You were soliciting advice on how to solve a particular technical problem, the copyrighted work happened to be the context in which you were solving this problem. The quoted portion of the template has become part of a new work with a completely different intent from the original (it's now in a Q&A to help LaTeX authors achieve some layout effect, rather than a template to give university students a starting place when formatting their thesis)
  • Amount and substantiality of the portion taken: You limited your reproduction of the work to only what was necessary to demonstrate the particular technical issue.
  • Effect of the use upon the potential market: The work is given away freely by the university, so I expect your redistribution of the title page is unlikely to have any impact on the demand for the work from the university.

That said, only a judge or jury adjudicating an actual lawsuit against your use can definitively accept or deny a fair use defense.

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