The “Fair Use” convention allows the use of small portions of copyrighted materials, without permission, in certain circumstances. It is this agreement that enables one to make a copy of a journal article, for example, for research and private study, to quote from a work that one is reviewing or include quotations in lecture materials. The convention is a privilege — it is not a right — and really constitutes an agreement that the copyright holder will ignore use of material (and, thus, breach of copyright) provided it is within the guidelines.
There is much confusion about how the convention of Fair Use is applied. An article in the 2 August 2011 issue of Inside Higher Ed seeks to explain what can and what cannot be done under the convention. Patrica Aufderheide, in “Myths about Fair Use“, provides a clear explanation and reasoning for the provisions of the convention; although she writes from the perspective of an academic in the United States of America, the guidance she offers is equally applicable in South Africa, wherein the legal system also accepts the Fair Use convention.