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Resources about copyright and fair use.

Check copyright status

Start by determining if the material is copyrighted or in the public domain.

Below are several links that may help:

Fair Use Guideline Checker

Next, use either of the checklists to help analyze if your proposed use is "Fair Use"


What is Fair Use

Fair Use, as found in Chapter 1, Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law, 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.

The 4 factors:

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

Fair Use determinations are unique to each situation.  In the box on the left are some digital tools to help with determining if your proposed use qualifies for Fair Use.  Remember these are not intended as legal advice.  Before you start, consider the following questions--if you answer yes, you may not need to conduct a Fair Use analysis as the University may already have permission to use the work:

  • Is the material copyrighted or is the material in the public domain?
  • Is the material available:
    • in a database to which the University subscribes
    • legally available on the web (e.g., materials under a Creative Commons license)
    • held by the Milner Library
  • Is there a separate copyright execption that would authorize the proopsed use of the work such as the Face-to-Face Teaching Exception?

Help with Fair Use, Course Reserves etc