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Copyright and Fair Use: Fair Use

What is Fair Use?

Fair use is a concept embedded in U.S. law that recognizes that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright holder. (See 17 U.S.C. § 107)

The fair use exception allows use of copyrighted materials without obtaining permission, based on a four-factor analysis. Each factor is given equal weight, and the type of technology used to perform or display the material is irrelevant to the outcome. The goal is to achieve a balance between the rights of the copyright holder and the rights of the public.

 

What Determines Fair Use?

The following four factors are used to determine if a use is fair:

  1. The purpose of the use (eg. commercial vs. educational)*
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount of the material used (the greater the amount copied, the less likely it is fair use)
  4. The effect of use on the potential market for or value of the work

    * Not all uses in an academic context are automatically considered fair use!

Fair Use in Academia

The Fair Use Doctrine is probably the most important exemption to copyright protections for educational settings, allowing many uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching and research. The complexity of fair use and its importance in academia make it imperative that every member of the University of Richmond understands how to make judgements concerning fair use.

Review these Common Scenarios to help you determine whether or not fair use is appropriate.

Tools to help you determine Fair Use

  • Fair Use Analysis Tool:  Guides users through the process of determining if a use is fair. Developed by The University of Minnesota Libraries.
  • Fair Use Evaluator: Helps users collect, organize, and document the information they may need to support a fair use claim, and  provides a time-stamped PDF document for the users’ records. Developed by the American Library Association, Office for Information Technology Policy.
     
  • Factors for Fair Use: Provides advice and charts on analyzing fair use.  Developed by the Copyright Office at Purdue University.

 

Best Practices in Fair Use