Fair Use

Exceptions to Copyright: Fair Use - 17 USC 107

Fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder for purposes such as criticism, parody, news reporting, research and scholarship, and teaching. There are four factors to consider when determining whether your use is a fair one. You must consider all the factors below, even though all the factors do not have to be in favor of a use to make it a fair one.

The four fair use factors are as follows:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

  2. The nature of the copyrighted work, such as whether the work is fiction or non-fiction, published or unpublished;

  3. The amount of the work used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, such as using a poem in its entirety, or using one chapter from a long book;

  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for the copyrighted work.

For assistance in analyzing these factors for individual cases, see the Fair Use Evaluator provided by the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy and Michael Brewer.  You have to apply the four factors to each fact situation.  Just because your use is for non-profit educational purposes does not automatically give you permission to copy and distribute other people's work. While many educational uses may be fair, you need to evaluate your use each time you are reproducing copyrighted material — to show in your class, to hand out copies, to include in your writing, or to post on CTools.

Page maintained by Melissa Levine
Last modified: 05/29/2012