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Copyright on Campus: Fair Use

This guide describes important components of copyright law and their relevance to the academic environment.

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 Title 17, section 107)

What Determines Fair Use?

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

  1. The purpose of the use (commercial/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 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 PLNU community 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 Evaluate Fair Use

  • Fair Use Checklist: provides a simple overview of fair use considerations.  From the Purdue University Copyright Office.
  • 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, providing a time-stamped PDF document for the users’ records. Developed by the American Library Association, Office for Information Technology Policy.