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Copyright Clarity: Fair Use

Confused about the difference between copyright, fair use, and the public domain? Not sure what you can freely use versus what you need permission to use? Wondering where plagiarism comes into play?

What is it?

What is Fair Use?

The Fair Use Doctrine is one of the most important limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright holder. It allows that copyright can be infringed because strict application of the law impedes the production and dissemination of works to the public. The Fair Use Doctrine was added as Section 107 of The Copyright Act of 1976 and was based on a history of judicial decisions that recognized that unauthorized infringements of copyright were "fair uses."

Copyright Chart for Teachers

How Do I know???

(from Purdue University Copyright Office)



Fair use 4 factors favor fair use
More than likely fair use 3 factors favor fair use
May be fair use 2 to 2 tie. You have to assess the risk
Not fair use

1 factor favors fair use

The tipping factor...

Fair Use Analysis

If the balance weighs in favor of fair use, then the work can be used without permission. However, if the balance weighs against fair use and other exceptions do not apply, then permission must be obtained to use the work. Please be aware that all educational use is not automatically fair use. The fair use analysis must be applied to each use of a work. Fair use is technology neutral, so the analysis may be used for any medium.



First Factor

What is the purpose and character of the use?

Second Factor

What is the nature of the work to be used?

Third Factor

How much of the work will be used?

Fourth Factor

What is the effect of the use on the market for the work?

Favors Fair Use





Favors Permission