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Copyright: Fair Use

What is Fair Use

The fair use doctrine is recognized under U.S. copyright law and allows certain uses of copyright protected material without first obtaining permission from the copyright holder. It is intended to serve the public good by allowing use of copyright protected materials for comedy, parody, news reporting, research and education. However, it is important to remember that not every use in an academic setting is automatically considered a fair use.

The Four Factors

The following factors must be considered and weighed to determine whether fair use applies:

  1. What is the character or purpose of the use? If the use is for a nonprofit educational use as opposed to a commercial purpose, it is more likely to be considered fair use.
  2. What is the nature of the work to be used? If it is a fact based work developed for research or scholarly use as opposed to a creative work created for commercial purposes, it is more likely to be considered fair use.
  3. How much of the work will be used? The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole must be considered. This refers to both the amount, length, and duration of the use.  The smaller the amount used, the more likely it favors fair use.
  4. What effect would the use have on the market for or the value of the copyrighted work? In order to favor fair use, the use should have little or no effect on the creator’s ability to make money from the work.

Good Faith

A thoughtful analysis of these factors in relation to the desired use is needed in order to make a “good faith” determination of fair use. There are significant penalties that can be imposed for copyright infringement. Liability may be reduced in cases of nonprofit educational use if it can be established that an evaluation of these four factors resulted in a reasonable belief that the use was fair.