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Student Copyright Guide: Fair Use

This guide is an overview of copyright law, terms, and practices.

What is Fair Use?

Fair use is a doctrine allowing the use or reproduction of copyrighted works without permission from the author, as long as certain conditions are met.

Using copyrighted work in a transformative way, such as altering it significantly or using it for a different purpose, is a large factor in fair use.

The most common cases of fair use are criticism, commentary, and parody. This also applies in education, research, and reporting. However, using a copyrighted work for an educational purpose does not automatically make it fair use.

Fair Use Resources

Thinking Through Fair Use (University of Minnesota)

Fair Use Checklist (Columbia University)

Fair Use Evaluator (American Library Association)

Four Factors

The following four factors are very important in determining fair use:

  • Purpose: What purpose does using the copyrighted work serve? Is it commercial or nonprofit? Nonprofit/educational uses are more likely to fall under fair use.
  • Nature: What is the nature of the copyrighted work? Is it factual or creative? Fact-based works are more likely to fall under fair use.
  • Amount: How much of the copyrighted work will be reproduced? Does original content make up the main portion, with only what is necessary from the copyrighted work? Using less of the copyrighted work is more likely to fall under fair use.
  • Effect: Will reproduction of the copyrighted work have an effect on its marketability or value? A reproduction that has little to no effect on the original work is more likely to fall under fair use.

This guide was created by Sarah Schaffer, Class of 2020, as a Professional Writing internship project for the Rohrbach Library.