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Copyright & Fair Use

Resources about copyright and fair use.

Step 1: Check Copyright Status

Step 2: Check for Fair Use

What is Fair Use? As found in Chapter 1, Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law, Fair Use is the permitted use of a copyrighted work, without the copyright owner's permission, for reasonable and limited use.  The purpose of the use must be for "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research."  That said, Fair Use does not automatically protect "educational uses" of copyrighted materials.

The intention of Fair Use is to allow some degree of freedom to create (or transform) the works of others into ones own new work(s).

Section 107 details 4 factors as guidelines for evaluating whether use of a copyrighted work is 'fair'. The 4 factors are weighed in aggregate-not separately; they are not hard and fast rules.   Transformation is sometimes considered a 5th factor--see the section of this guide for further information.  Fair Use determinations are unique to each situation.

The 4 factors:

  1. The purpose and character of the use
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount or how much of the work to be used
  4. The effect on the market for the work i.e., will the use avoid payment or compete and thus deprive money?