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Copyright, Fair Use, and More

Fair Use

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"Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances." --

Copyright law is quite complex and is constantly evolving largely due to changes in technology. Decisions made in copyright infringement cases will help clarify copyright law, but that will take time. In the meantime, this ambiguity works in favor of the student, teacher, educational institution, and library. 

There are four factors to consider when deciding to fairly use copyrighted materials (see the checklist linked below), in fact, these are the properties courts assess when Fair Use issues end up in court.  Keep them in mind.

Fair use 5 elements for review


Favors Fair Use Opposes Fair Use
  • Teaching
  • Research / Scholarship
  • Non-Profit Educational Institution
  • Restricted access (to students / others)
  • Profiting from the use
  • Entertainment
  • Commercial activity
  • Open access to anyone or by payment of a fee
  • Small quantity
  • Portion used is not central or significant to entire work
  • Amount is appropriate for educational purpose
  • Large portion or whole work used
  • Portion used is central to work or "heart of the work"
  • Published work
  • Factual or nonfiction based
  • Important to educational objectives
  • Unpublished work
  • Highly creative work (art, novels, films, music, etc.)
  • No significant effect on the market or potential market for copyrighted work
  • No similar product marketed by the copyright holder
  • User owns lawfully acquired or purchased copy of original work
  • Could replace sale of copyrighted work
  • Significantly impairs market or potential market for copyrighted work
  • You made it accessible on the Web or in other public forum
  • Repeated or long term use

Learn more about Fair Use and check the "fairness" of your use of copyrighted resources using the  Fair Use Evaluator and check out the The UWF Fair Use Checklist