The Fair Use Doctrine, Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976 is the most general of the limitations on the rights of copyright owners. It attempts to balance the needs of teachers and researchers with those of copyright owners. The fair use doctrine allows for certain uses of copyrighted works, without permission or payment, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including, in some instances, multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research. See “Conditions of Use,” for teaching and classroom exemptions.
Also note that the fair use doctrine is medium neutral and therefore applies equally to films, audio recordings, web content, etc. Some specific exemptions apply with regard to the use of multimedia in the classroom; see Multimedia Use.
Fair use is a "rule of reason," and because there is no universally adopted definition of fair use, the interpretation of how much use constitutes fair use is a matter of much debate. Congress provides four factors to consider in determining whether a particular instance might be considered fair use. The four factors for consideration are:
The dynamics of the fair use doctrine involve weighing the various and often competing interests. Although fair use is inherently ambiguous, this should not deter you from making use of it. In fact, the ambiguity can work to your advantage, if you perform a good faith fair use analysis. We recommend using the Fair Use Checklist to assist you with the analysis and that you save a completed copy of the Checklist for your records.
Even if your use of copyrighted materials is "fair use," you should always:
Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-For- Profit Educational Institutions With Respect To Books And Periodicals, National Association of College Stores, Inc. (Please note that these are guidelines and cannot be used as the sole justification for a specific use. You must still perform a fair use analysis.)
Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials, University of Texas System.
Content adapted from, “Using Copyrighted Resources,” Georgetown University. Used by permission.