Fair Use refers to the copying of copyrighted material, without the permission of the copyright owner, typically done for the purposes of criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research, and parody. Users claiming fair use of copyrighted material must be prepared to defend their use if challenged by the copyright owner. There are no precise rules for determining whether a use is fair. Copyright law provides guidance only by way of the four factors for which a use is judged. The other factor that may affect a fair use determination is whether the use is considered to be transformative.
Fair use and the guidelines summarized below do not preempt or supersede licenses, terms of agreement, and contractual obligations.
The following tools are designed to help you make a fair use evaluation to determine whether portions of copyrighted works may be used without permission. Do this analysis each time you need to determine whether your proposed use of a work is fair.
Note: Section 504 (c)(2) of the Copyright Act of 1976 offers legal protection to educators and librarians who have used copyrighted material based upon a good-faith analysis of the fair use factors.
Fair Use Tools
The Four Factors
Fair Use Checklist
The checklist, based on the four factors outlined in the fair use provision of copyright law, is designed to help you make a fair use determination, and provide you with a permanent record of your decision-making process.
Fair Use Evaluator Tool
Learn more about fair use and determine the "fairness" of a use.
Thinking Through Fair Use
Checkboxes and a five-point fairness scale designed to help make better fair use decisions. Includes the option to email a copy of your decision for permanent recordkeeping.
The transformative nature of a work refers to those uses which create something new and unique, going beyond simply making a duplicate or copy of the original.
Examples of transformative works:
Generally a nonprofit, educational use will be favored over a commercial use.
If the work is primarily factual in nature it is more likely to be considered fair use, as opposed to creative or expressive works such as plays, poems, fictional works, photographs, paintings, etc.
Typically, the smaller the portion you use, the more likely you are within fair use. Substantiality refers to the quality or importance of the portion used.
If the proposed use is likely to significantly affect the market for or value of the copyrighted work, in lieu of purchasing or licensing a work, this factor would weigh against fair use.
These are general guidelines that many educators have agreed upon and follow with regard to the copying of analog and digital content and the creation of multimedia objects or presentations. These guidelines can assist you in determining what may be permissable under fair use, with the warning that these are simply guidelines and have not been adopted as law.
For more information see: Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia (1996)
It is important to keep in mind that, in general, fair use does not give permission for copying works in their entirety. Limited portions of legally acquired material may be incorporated into a new production by a student for a class project or by an instructor for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.
It is always advisable to credit the sources and display the copyright notice and copyright ownership information for all works used in academic projects, including those prepared under fair use. When seeking permission to use copyrighted work the copyright owner may stipulate how the permitted work should be cited. Use of an acknowledgement or citation may be considered in a fair use determination, but it does not offer protection against an infringement claim.