17 U.S.C.S. § 107(3) asks whether the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, or whether the quantity and value of the materials used, are reasonable in relation to the purpose of the copying. The extent of permissible copying varies with the purpose and character of the use.
Petitioners, a rap music group, were sued by respondent, the corporate owner of an original rock ballad, for copyright infringement. Petitioners claimed the song was a parody entitled to fair use protection under the Copyright Act of 1976. The court, however, found the commercial purpose of petitioner's parody had prevented it from being a fair use. The case was appealed.
Did the court err when it concluded that the commercial nature of petitioners' parody had rendered it presumptively unfair?
The Court found that it was error for the court below to have concluded that the commercial nature of petitioners' parody had rendered it presumptively unfair. The Court held that no such evidentiary presumption was available to address either § 107(1), the character and purpose of the use, or § 107(4), market harm, in determining whether tranformative use, such as parody, was a fair one. The Court held that a parody's commercial character, which tended to weigh against a finding of fair use, was only one element that should be weighed in a fair use enquiry. Therefore, the court below was found to have given insufficient consideration to the nature of the parody under the fair use factors as set forth in § 107 in weighing the degree of copying.