Skip to Main Content

Copyright and Fair Use

This guide provides resources and information about copyright and fair use.

Fair Use Assessment

When assessing whether use of a work falls under fair use, you must conduct an assessment and consider all four fair use factors. Remember, the majority of factors need to weigh in favor of fair use for the doctrine to apply. The relative weight given to each factor can also vary from case to case.  

Note: The information on this page is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Case-by-case assessments must be conducted to decide whether fair use applies, or whether permissions need to be obtained from the copyright holder.

Fair Use Factors Favors Fair Use Not Favoring Fair Use
Purpose & character of use
  • Non-profit use
  • Educational use
  • Criticism & comment
  • Scholarship & research
  • News reporting
  • Transformative use
  • Commercial use
  • For-profit use
  • Widespread distribution
  • Entertainment use
  • Derivative 
Nature of copyrighted work
  • Factual
  • Published
  • Creative
  • Unpublished
Amount of work to be used*
  • Small amount
  • Limited portions
  • Extensive amount
  • "Heart of the work"
Effect on market for work
  • No effect
  • Restricted access (behind password)
  • Licensing unavailable
  • Limited availability of work
  • Substantial effect
  • Publicly available
  • Selling work
  • Using work repeatedly 

*Common examples of limited portions provided for this analysis factor are using one chapter of a book, one table from an article, or one article from a periodical. While these may be helpful examples, there is no exact definition of the length permitted. It depends on the size and scope of the work. 

It is recommended that you document (keep records) of your own good faith fair use assessments.  

Note that commercial or publication purposes would generally not fall under fair use. These can include using copyright material for publication in newsletters and journals, on public websites, on products for sale, or in promotional materials like advertisements.  

Assessment Tools

Transformative Use

In the context of fair use, you may come across discussion of whether a fair use is "transformative." A work is transformed if it is used in a new context or for a new purpose other than that which it was originally created. Transformative uses create new works with substantially different purposes and characters than the original.   

This can be considered a part of the first fair use factor (the purpose and character of the use). However, a recent Supreme Court decision has rendered “transformativeness” as a supplementary concern.

The assessment of the first factor should be primarily focused on the extent to which the use’s purpose is different from that of the original work, and whether the use is commercial or not.