College Resources

Fair Use

Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law provides for fair use exemption. Fair Use is intended to balance the needs of scholars and students with the rights of copyright owners. The law states that copyrighted materials may be used one time only under special circumstances which constitute fair use. While Fair Use Guidelines described on this page do not carry total legal force, they are usually considered a "safe harbor" for permissible use.

FAIR USE SCALE

What constitutes fair use is expressed in the form of guidelines rather than explicit rules. When ruling in "fair use" cases, courts consider four factors: purpose, nature, proportion and impact. In the table below, we have summarized fair use guidelines for each of these factors. Consider where you stand on each factor and use the provided scale to determine how you will proceed.
 

4 out of 4
Your use of the copyrighted work is fair.
 
3 out of 4
You are probably protected under Fair Use.
2 out of 4
Use the copyrighted work at your own risk.
1 out of 4
You are strongly advised not to use the work.

PURPOSE

Favoring Fair Use

  • Non-Profit

  • Educational

  • Teaching

  • Research

  • Scholarship

  • Criticism

  • Comment

  • News Reporting

  • Transformative or productive use

  • Restricted access

  • Parody

Opposing Fair Use

  • Commercial

  • Profiting from the use

  • Entertainment

  • Bad-faith behavior

  • Denying credit to original author

NATURE

Favoring Fair Use

  • Published work

  • Fact-based or nonfiction work

  • Important to stated educational objectives

Opposing Fair Use

  • Unpublished work

  • Highly creative or fictional work

  • Work was intended created for the Education Market (ex. textbooks, workbooks)

PROPORTION or AMOUNT

Favoring Fair Use

  • Small portion of the work

  • Section used is not central or critical to entire work; it is not the "heart of the work"

  • Amount is suitable for stated educational objectives

  • Thumbnail image (not to exceed 100 x 125 or 125 x 100 pixels)

Opposing Fair Use

  • Large or entire portion of the work

  • Section used is central to the work

IMPACT or EFFECT
(most important of the Four Factors)

Favoring Fair Use

  • User owns lawfully acquired or purchased copy of original work

  • One or few copies made

  • No significant effect on the market or potential market for copyrighted work

  • No similar product marketed by the copyright holder

  • Lack of licensing mechanism

  • Original is out of print or otherwise unavailable

  • Copyright owner cannot be identified

  • Use is spontaneous

Opposing Fair Use

  • Competes with sales of the original work
  • Significantly impairs market or potential market for copyrighted work or derivative

  • Reasonably available licensing mechanism available

  • Affordable permission available for using work

  • Numerous copies made

  • User makes work accessible on Web or in other public forum

  • Repeated or long term use

  • What if "everybody did it"

4 out of 4
Your use of the copyrighted work is fair.
 
3 out of 4
You are probably protected under Fair Use.
2 out of 4
Use the copyrighted work at your own risk.
1 out of 4
You are strongly advised not to use the work.