Purpose and character of the use refers to the way the copyrighted work is used—for instance, whether the use is for commercial gain or for a non-commercial purpose such as educational study and analysis. Section 107 explicitly states examples of fair use that include “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research.” Keep in mind that these examples must be weighed along with the other three factors before a use is deemed fair.
Courts assess the character of the use by considering whether a work has been copied verbatim or used as a basis for a work with new expression. This has been termed the “transformative use” factor, the measure by which the new work has altered or changed the meaning of the original work. U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter wrote in the landmark decision for the 1994 case Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569 that transformative use “…adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message.” In cases of parodied copyrighted works, fair use was found because transformative use has been the most significant argument.