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Copyright Fundamentals: Fair Use

Fair Use Resources

Temple University Media Education Lab, American University Washington College of Law Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, and American University Center for Media & Social Impact.

From Ohio State University Health Sciences Library

Essays from members of ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) about making copyright decisions in libraries--both domestic and international.

See the chapter, "Understanding the Four Factors"

Interesting site where you can see cases and which way they've landed on the question of Fair Use.

From OpenOregon

A helpful checklist created by Columbia University Libraries.

From the American Library Association

Read about the case alleging "pervasive, flagrant and ongoing unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials” through the library’s e-reserve system.

A helpful website from the University of Minnesota.

Search a database of judicial decisions pertaining to fair use.

Fair Use: The Four Factors

Fair use allows for the use of copyrighted material without licensing or permission under certain circumstances -- such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is determined on a case by case basis. Copyright law provides the following four factors for guidance in making fair use determinations:

1. Purpose and Character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.

2. Nature of the copyrighted work.

3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.

4. Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

See Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators [eBook from EBSCO's Ebook Academic Collection]

especially the chapter, "Understanding the Four Factors"

More on applying the four factors: United States Copyright Office

Read Title 17, Section 107 of the Copyright Law of the United States on Fair Use

See Circular 21 from the United States Copyright Office, Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians


Fair Use: Transformative Fair Use

When an original work is used in an entirely new way, it is considered transformative and can be used without licensing or permission. Examples of transformative use are parodies, modified images (such as thumbnail images for search engines or books), collages, and music sampling or remixing.

It is important to note that although the law is flexible and can encompass a variety of circumstances, fair use is determined on a case by case basis. For example, some remixes and samples are considered fair use and others are not.

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