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Fair Use and Copyright

An overview of Copyright and Fair Use issues in the academic environment.

The Four Factors of Fair Use

In general, Copyright Law prohibits reproducing and distributing copyrighted works. However, the "Fair Use Doctrine" (Section 107) allows a limited amount of copying for purposes such as teaching and scholarship. In determining whether the use made of a work in a particular case is a Fair Use, the four factors to be considered include:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyright work as a whole; and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Fair Use raises many questions, and can be a persistent source of concern for teachers.  The most important point to remember is that Fair Use is both a right and a privilege, and does provide a substantial degree of freedom and protection for teachers. However, that freedom can be challenged, and in reality most educational institutions do not have the resources, skill, or will to engage in long and expensive legal battles over this issue.  This guide is a way for you to judge for yourself if you are meeting the spirit and the letter of the law.

Verify your compliance with Fair Use using one of the essential tools (menu).

Best Practices

  • Inform class participants that materials are being made available for teaching, research and study purposed only.
  • Restrict materials to class participants only.
  • Attribute images and texts to known copyright holders.
  • Use third party (institutionally licensed databases or open access) sources to provide access to materials.

LCC's Copyright Resources