The "fair use” doctrine of federal law is rather complicated. Basically, “fair use” limits the extent of the property interest granted to a copyright holder. For example, “fair use” might allow individuals to quote from copyrighted material when the quoted excerpt is used for teaching, research, news reporting, comment, criticism or parody. There are some limitations. Whether the courts will allow you to reproduce, distribute, adapt, display and/or perform copyrighted works depends upon four factors: (i) the nature of the use (commercial purposes, nonprofit, educational); (ii) the length of the excerpt; (iii) how distinctive the original work is; and (iv) how the use will impact the market for the original work. Generally speaking, one is not allowed to take the "value" of a song without permission, and sometimes that value is found even in a three-second clip. When in doubt, it is always wise to check with the copyright owner, because in many cases even a small clip of a song may not be "fair use." Contrary to popular belief, there is no 30-second exception to copyright law nor is there any exception for music sampling.
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