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Copyright Guidelines: Fair Use

What is Fair Use?

The concept of Fair Use may be found in the opens new windowU.S. Code, Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 107

Under the “fair use” rule of copyright law, an author may make limited use of another author’s work without asking permission. However, “fair use” is open to interpretation. Fair use is intended to support teaching, research, and scholarship, but educational purpose alone does not make every use of a work fair. It is always important to analyze how you are going use a particular work against the following four factors of fair use.

  1. What is your purpose in using the material? Are you going to use the material for monetary gain or for education or research purposes?
  2. What is the characteristic nature of work – is it fact or fiction; has it been published or not?
  3. How much of the work are you going to use? Small amount or large? Is it the significant or central part of the work?
  4. How will your use of the work effect the author’s or the publisher’s ability to sell the material? If your purpose is for research or education, your effect on the market value may be difficult to prove. However, if your purpose is commercial gain, then you are not following fair use.

opens new windowFair Use Fundamentals infographic (opens in new window)opens new windowfair use infographic

Fair Use Evaluator

opens new windowlink to Fair Use Evaluator tool

opens new windowFair Use Evaluator

This tool can:

  • Help you better understand how to determine the "fairness" of a use under the U.S. Copyright Code.
  • Collect, organize, & archive the information you might need to support a fair use evaluation.

Fair Use Checklist

opens new windowFair Use Checklist

for background and information on using this checklist see the opens new window introduction to the Checklist

opens new windowCode of Best Practices for Fair Use

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) presents a clear and easy-to-use statement of fair and reasonable approaches to fair use.


Requesting Permission

To use materials that do not fall within Fair Use, contact the copyright holder to request permission. Here is a sample permission request letter.