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Copyright Toolkit

Doctine of Fair Use

Doctrine of Fair Use
The doctrine of fair use allows the reproduction of a copyrighted work if used for “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research” (U.S. Copyright Office, 2012, para. 2).  Determining whether the use of copyrighted material is acceptable under the doctrine of Fair Use is not always clear. Obtaining permission from the owner of the copyrighted material is always the best course of action.   However, interpretation of the doctrine of fair use should be guided by the following factors:
 
Factor 1 - Purpose and Character of Use
Factor 2 - Nature of the Copyrighted Work
Factor 3 - Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used in Relation to the Copyrighted Work as a Whole
Factor 4 - Effect of the Use Upon the Potential Market for or Value of the Copyrighted Work
 

Court Opinions Interpreting Fair Use

Click on the link below to view court opinions interpreting fair use of copyright protected resources:

https://copyright.gov/fair-use/fair-index.html

Evaluating Fair Use

Determining whether the use of copyrighted material is acceptable under the doctrine of fair use is not always clear.  Obtaining permission from the owner of the copyrighted material is always the best course of action. 

However, interpretation of the doctrine of fair use should be guided by the following factors: 

Factor 1 – Purpose and Character of Use

  • Is the material being used by non-profit and by definition educational institution?
  • Is the use bound by the curriculum of a specific course?
  • Is there a transformational use* of the work?

*Transformational use:

  • Has the material you have taken from the original work been transformed by adding new expression or meaning?
  • Was value added to the original by creating new information, new aesthetics, new insights, and understandings?

Factor 2 – Nature of the Copyrighted Work

  • Is the work factual?
  • Is the work fictional or creative?

 Factor 3 – Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used in Relation to the Copyrighted Work as a Whole

  • Is only a small portion of the work being used?
  • Is this portion directly related to a specific learning objective?
  • Is the portion so large that it is equivalent to the heart of the work?

Factor 4 – Effect of the Use Upon the Potential Market for or Value of the Copyrighted Work

  • Does the use of this material have a negative impact on the market or value of the work?
  • Is there financial gain for yourself or your institution in the use of this work?

Click on the Fair Use Evaluator to assist with determining fair use of a copyright-protected resource:

Fair Use Checklist

Use the checklist linked below to guide decision-making about the use of copyright protected resources.

American Library Association Checklist for Fair Use

Click on the Fair Use Evaluator tool below to assist with determining fair use.