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Copyright : Fair Use

Useful information regarding copyright considerations.

What is Fair Use?

Fair use is a limitation of the copyright law that allows others to use, without seeking permission, the work of a copyright holder.

How is fair use applied determined?

The copyright law makes the provision of fair use by application of these four factors:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole: and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. (17 U.S.C. § 107.)


What's covered under fair use?

Copyright law is flexible enough to be used in a wide variety of situations. Generally fair use is often applied for socially important purposes that would include:

  1. criticism;
  2. comment;
  3. news reporting;
  4. teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use);
  5. scholarship: and
  6. research. (17 U.S.C. § 107.)

For anyone considering using copyrighted material without permission should always closely review the four fair use factors.

What if something doesn't meet the standard?

If a work would fall outside of any of the factors for fair use, these options might be considered:

  1. Seek permission from the copyright holder.
  2. Reconsider the proposed use of the copyrighted item.
  3. Consider using materials that are in the public domain.

Fair Use Resources

ALA Fair Use Evaluator

An interactive tool for determining fair use from the American Library Association.

Tutorial on Fair Use

A short video on fair use from Ohio State University.

Fair Use Checklist

A printable fair use checklist from Columbia University Libraries.

Best Practices

A listing of best practices for fair use across a number of different disciplinary and educational venues from the Center for Media & Social Impact.

Special Collections

Copyright and fair use guidelines for reproducing material from special collections in Legacy Library.

Getting Permission

A set-by-step guide to getting permission to use a copyrighted work from the University of California.