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Research Guides

Open Access, Scholarly Communication, and Copyright: Fair Use

Fair Use Fundamentals

Did you know that fair use is a fundamental right?

Take a look at this infographic from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) to learn more about the importance of fair use and to see examples of fair use in practice.

What is Fair Use?

To create a balance between the interests of those who develop intellectual and creative works and those who benefit from accessing and using said works, copyright law includes exemptions that limit the exclusive rights of copyright holders. One such exemption is fair use, which allows users of copyrighted works to exercise certain rights without seeking permission or paying royalties.

The determination of whether the use of a copyrighted work is within fair use depends upon making a reasoned and balanced application of the four fair use factors set forth in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act. These factors are:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether the copied material will be for non-profit, educational, or commercial use. 
  • The nature of the copyrighted work, with special consideration given to the distinction between a creative work and an informational work. 
  • The amount, substantiality, or portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. 
  • The effect of the use on the potential market of the copyrighted work. 

All four factors should be evaluated in each case, and no single factor will determine the outcome. In other words, while fair use is specifically intended to apply to teaching, research, and other activities, an educational purpose alone does not make a use fair.