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Copyright: Fair
Use

Fair Use

The Four Factors

Section 107 of the copyright law lists the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair. We recommend the Fair Use Checklist (Columbia University) for analyzing whether your proposed use is fair. 

  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; (fiction/creative or nonfiction/factual)

  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."

 From the U.S. Copyright Office http://copyright.gov/fair-use/more-info.html

 

Is Fair Use a law?

Yes, Fair Use is codified in Title 17, Section 107 of the U.S. Code.


Is Fair Use only for educators?

No, fair use applies to everyone, nonprofit and commercial users alike. There are, however, certain privileges for educational uses.


Is all educational use "fair use?"

No. All four factors must be considered.


What are some examples of ways copyrighted works can be used under the  fair use exemption?

You can use small portions of a copyrighted work to comment and illustrate a point, report news, do research or scholarship, criticism or parody.


How much of a work can I use safely?

There are no amounts or percentages in the law. If you have heard of percentages, those most likely come from guidelines developed over the years by groups like CONFU, but these percentages are not written into the law. When using copyrighted work, use the least amount necessary. Although the law does not specify any amounts, copyright scholars seem comfortable with approximately 10% of a work. If however you have chosen the "heart of the work," a much smaller amount might fail the fair use test. The "heart of the work" of a book might be the pages with the key turning point of a story or the revealing motivation for a person's action. For a song, it might be the 4 second refrain that is recognized worldwide, across generations.

You may have more leeway with amount when you are creating a parody.


What is transformative use?

Think of this along with your first fair use factor. The nature of the use may be commercial or nonprofit, and nonprofit uses are always considered more favorably. But your use may be more than that.  If what you do with the copyrighted work adds new meaning, brings new value, or repurposes a work, you have transformed it beyond its original use. The problem with transformative work is that you may think a use is transformative, but the judge may not. It is not always predictable.

Stanford University has some examples to illustrate successful and unsuccessful transformative work.


How do I apply Fair Use in the classroom or in my distance education class?

For class handouts in a face to face classroom, see the Classroom Guidelines.

For performance and display in classrooms using digital transmissions (Blackboard, Moodle, etc), see the TEACH Act.


Can you be more specific?

See Guidelines and Best Practices for recommendations developed by various professional organizations.

 

Fair Use Resources

Fair Use Checklist (Columbia University)

Fair Use Evaluator (American Library Association)

Statement on Fair Use in Music (Music Library Association)

Disclaimer

Nothing on this guide is to be construed as legal advice. These pages are intended to provide information and guidance in the application of copyright law and to expand on the University of Missouri System Collected Rules and Regulations.

Thanks to Miller Nichols Library of UMKC for permission to reuse material from their Copyright guide.