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Copyright: Fair Use

What Is Fair Use?

Fair use is a concept embedded in U.S. law that recognizes that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright holder.

See Title 17, section 107.

What Determines Fair Use?

The following four factors are used to determine if a use is fair:

  1. The purpose of the use (eg. commercial vs. educational)
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount of the material used (the greater the amount copied, the less likely it is fair use)
  4. The effect of use on the potential market for or value of the work

Not all uses in an academic context are automatically considered fair use.  See more at

Fair Use In Academia

The Fair Use Doctrine is probably the most important exemption to copyright protections for educational settings, allowing many uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching and research.

The Association of Research Libraries has published a Know Your Copy Rights brochure that includes a one-page chart that highlights 24 situations when various categories of works can be used.


Tools to Help You Determine Fair Use

  • Fair Use Analysis Tool:  guides users through the process of determining if a use is fair. Developed by the University of Minnesota Libraries.
  • Fair Use Evaluator: helps users collect, organize, and document the information they may need to support a fair use claim, and  provides a time-stamped PDF document for the users’ records. Developed by the American Library Association, Office for Information Technology Policy.
  • Fair Use Checklist: helps users of copyrighted works determine whether their activities are within the limits of fair use under U.S. copyright law. Developed by Columbia University Libraries.

Head of Scholarly Communications