I made a web app that helps users generate interactive study notes, which facilitates their studying. The nature of this kind of user-generated content is that it will inevitably contain copyrighted material from textbooks and other studying material. This situation is very similar to that of studying tools like Quizlet.

My question comes in 2 parts:

  1. Is it legal to put ads in my web app if it contains user-generated material that may contain copyrighted material?
  2. If I don’t put any ads, is it considered fair use to operate a web app like this?

Fair use is a four-factor test. Whether the use is commercial is part of just one of the four factors. Fair use is determined on a case by case basis, and it would be rather silly to assume that everything a user could post would be covered by fair use.

Rather than just rely on the possibility of fair use, you may want to utilize the DMCA protections. Doing so can protect you from copyright liability for the user-generated content. You will have to register a DMCA agent, and expeditiously respond to takedown notices and counternotices.

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