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Copyright: Fair Use

Copyright and Fair Use Information

What Constitutes Fair Use?

To make a reasonable judgment about whether the use you make of a copyrighted work is Fair Use, the Copyright law provides a set of four criteria in Sec.107. These criteria include:

  • the purpose of the use;
  • the amount used;
  • the nature of the work (creative or factual); and
  • the effect your use may have on the market for the copyrighted work. 

It is important to note that while no one factor is paramount, all four factors should be considered in your analysis.  Note also that the preamble to Sec. 107 lists criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research as examples of Fair Use.  That does not mean that ALL use for these purposes are necessarily Fair Use, but it does point to the purposes that Congress had in mind when writing Sec. 107.

What Is Fair Use?

  • Fair Use is an exception in US Copyright law that allows users, under certain conditions, to freely use copyrighted works without the copyright owner's permission.
  • Generally speaking, a use falls under Fair Use if its benefits to society outweigh economic harm to the copyright owner.
  • Types of uses that Courts have historically deemed to be Fair Use include quoting material in a review or critique; news reporting; time-shifting of a broadcast (recording it to watch at another time); making multiple copies of a work for classroom use; and parody. Other uses may be fair as well. These are just examples.
  • If a use is a FAIR USE, permission from the copyright owner is not needed and no licensing fee is required. In essence, the permission to use another's copyright work is being given by US Copyright Law itself.

How will you know if your use is, in fact, Fair?

  • It is not known for sure if a use is FAIR USE or an infringement until the case goes to court and the judge makes a ruling.  For this reason, no one can tell you ahead of time that your use is definitely a FAIR USE.
  • In determining if a use is fair, four factors must be considered: purpose of the use; nature of the work being used; amount of the work being used; whether the proposed use would economically harm the copyright owner (see next tab for further details)
  • Each member of the Aggie community is responsible for making his or her own Fair Use determination. Some online tools are available to help users work through the Four Factors, including the Fair Use Checklist and the Fair Use Evaluator.

Fair Use Quiz

Fair Use Checklist

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