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Copyright and Fair Use: 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!

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. While complex, Fair Use is incredibly useful to know. 

Created by librarians at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, a list of common Fair Use scenarios are available in their own tab under Fair Use.

A Fair(y) Use Tale

Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University created a humorous, yet informative, review of copyright principles delivered through the words of Disney characters -- an ironic bit of commentary given Disney's key role in lengthening copyright terms.

Fair Use Evaluator