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Copyright Basics: Understanding Fair Use

This guide helps you sort through the tangled web of Copyright!

Fair Use Checklist

The checklist below can be used to determine if your particular use falls under the Fair Use exemption. As you work through the checklist, you will get a sense of which side of the equation your use falls-permissible or not.


Fair Use Defined

Copyright Decision Map

Understanding Fair Use

Fair Use is one means by which copyrighted works can be used under certain circumstances without first obtaining permission of the copyright holder. Fair Use is limited, but flexible, and is commonly used in educational settings. Making a Fair Use determination is not a simple "yea or nay" decision.

Conducting a Fair Use analysis requires weighing four factors for each individual use, and seeing if, on balance the use is a fair one. Sometimes, the use is clear-cut. Other times, it's a judgement call, and two people analyzing the same situation can come up with different outcomes. Such is the nature of Fair Use.

The four factors are:

  1. purpose
  2. nature of the publication
  3. amount
  4. market effect

Each use is evaluated individually by doing a Fair Use test. Legally, there is no maximum number of pages nor percentage of the whole that determines Fair Use.

A Fair (y) Use Tale

Subject Guide