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Copyright & Fair Use

Understanding the ins and outs of copyright is challenging. The best advice is usually to know where to find the information when you need it, which is why we've compiled this research guide.

Fair Use

Fair Use

Copyright Law and Fair Use

Copyright Law and Fair Use


What the Copyright Law says about Fair Use

Sec. 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include -

1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit 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. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

Provisions for Fair Use

Provision for Fair Use


Consequently, copyrighted content can be used without infringement under certain circumstances. Copyright law does not give precise details about when and how fair use applies but the four criteria above provide a framework for evaluating a specific case, engaging in responsible reflection and making a determination. Fair use must be determined on a case-by-case basis and specifically addressing the proposed use. It should be noted that all four criteria must be considered in making an adequate fair use determination.

Though Section 107 of the copyright law provides a legal framework for fair use and even identifies uses that could meet the criteria: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research, the assessment and determination rest with the person who is making use of the copyrighted content.

Happily, there are guides to help you think through whether fair use applies. While more latitude prevails for utilizing copyrighted resources in direct, face-to-face instruction, the responsibility for determining fair use and subsequent use of the copyrighted content is the responsibility of the person who reproduces or reuses that content.