Suppose I wish to use copyrighted printed materials under fair use, and let's assume for the sake of argument that it is completely obvious that my usage correctly falls under fair use guidelines.

As far as I can tell, fair use says nothing one way or another about where the content comes from. Could I, for example, duplicate portions of illegally distributed versions of the material available online if my own usage of it is legitimate under fair use? Or is it the case that fair use is only legitimate if my source is a legally distributed one?

1 Answer 1


If you make a whole copy of a book without permission, that would be infringement and not fair use, and you would be liable to that extent. If you make a further copy from it of a limited portion of the work and distribute it, in a manner consistent with fair use law, that is fair use, and you are not liable for that copying. Subsequent copying is not tainted by the fact that copying was from an unauthorized copy. Note, though, that the first sale doctrine (you can sell your copy of a protected work) only applies to works legally copied, so you can't legally sell an infringing copy.

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