The Fair Use Doctrine, Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, 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. The Fair Use Doctrine is medium neutral; it applies equally to films, audio recordings, web content, etc.
The Four Factors of Fair Use
Congress provides four factors to consider in determining fair use:
- Purpose and character of the use (e.g., commercial vs. nonprofit educational)
- Nature of the copyrighted work (e.g., facts vs. works of imagination)
- Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
- Effect of the use upon the market for or value of the copyrighted work
Fair Use Checklist
See Educational Use for teaching and classroom exemptions.
Even if your use of copyrighted materials is Fair Use, you should always:
- Avoid term-to-term use. You have some leeway if you use materials in a classroom setting for only one semester. However, if you intend to continue to use a work, you should obtain permission.
- Include a copyright notice. Whenever you reproduce (photocopy, scan, etc.) any part of a copyrighted work, with or without permission, you should include a notice of copyright on the copy.
- Restrict the distribution of copies. For printed works, do not make more than one copy per student, do not charge the students more than the cost of reproduction, and do not collect the copies back from the students at the end of the course. Violation of any of these rules decreases the protection of the Fair Use Doctrine. For electronic works, see the TEACH Act guidelines.
- Avoid "anthologizing." Anthologizing is the creation of an ad hoc, textbook-like compilation of chapters, monographs, and the like from existing sources, in or out of print. If you wish to anthologize, obtain permission from each author whose work you include. (One source for permissions is the Georgetown University Bookstore.)
- Maintain a record. Keep a record of all permission requests and responses to show that you have adhered to the law.
Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying, National Association of College Stores, Inc.
Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials, University of Texas System.
Fair Use Evaluator