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What is Fair Use?

The doctrine of fair use developed over the years as courts tried to balance the rights of copyright owners with society's interest in allowing copying in certain, limited circumstances. This doctrine has at its core a fundamental belief that not all copying should be banned, particularly in socially important endeavors such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research.

Although the doctrine of fair use was originally created by the judiciary, it is now set forth in section 107 of the Copyright Act. Under the Act, four factors are to be considered in order to determine whether a specific action is to be considered a "fair use." These factors are as follows:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Copyright and Fair Use Tools

Use the following tools to learn more about copyright and fair use.

Copyright Basics- information from Columbia University on the basics of understanding copyright. 

Fair Use Checklist (pdf)- print to determine if your intended use of a copyrighted work is Fair Use.

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