If you have spent any time looking into copyright infringement, you may have encountered the 30 Seconds Rule. This rule goes by many names depending on what industry in which you operate, including the Two-Thirds Rule or the 200 Words Rule.

The rule posits that using a portion of copyrighted material without duplicating the work in its entirety counts as fair use.

For example, a movie producer uses 28 seconds of a well-known, four-minute song to soundtrack their trailer. The producer believes, since they are using less than 30 seconds and less than two-thirds of the track, they do not have to purchase a license to the song and can use the music under fair use.

While Fair Use doctrine does consider the duplicated portion compared to the entirety of the copyrighted material, no bright-line rule exists that indicates two-thirds is the golden portion for avoiding infringement.

30 seconds, 200 words and two-thirds are all arbitrary numbers without any real standing in intellectual property law.

The 500 Copies Rule

One version of this rule, commonly referred to as the 500 Copies Rule, incorrectly posits that copyrighted material can be duplicated without permission, so long as the duplicator produces fewer than 500 copies.

While reproducing copyrighted works in limited fashion may seem like no big deal, intellectual property law considers this copyright infringement as well and can still subject this practice to litigation.

Defend your copyright against false fair use claims

If you hold copyright, you likely put a great deal of time, effort and money into securing it. Don’t let bogus fair use justifications infringe your copyright. If an individual or business reproduces or uses your copyrighted material without permission, discuss the situation with an experienced intellectual property attorney.