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Is it a copyright violation to write a guidebook to a work of fiction? For example, there are guidebooks to Tolkien's Middle Earth and to Star Wars, etc.

I would have thought that it is fair use because a guidebook is "commentary". Is that right?

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Fair use is decided on a case by case basis and involves a multi-factor test. Just because there is commentary does not necessarily mean the courts will find that it is fair use. See, for example, Ty, Inc. v. Publ'ns Int'l, Ltd., where fair use was not found in a collector's guide to Beanie Babies that contained photographs of them.

The court then rejected defendant’s argument that the photographs were necessary to create a competitive collector’s guide because, even if defendant had a right to produce such a guide, it still copied more of plaintiff’s work than was necessary.

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