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Copyright on Campus

What is Fair Use?

Codified in § 107 of U.S. copyright law, fair use is the acknowledgement that sometimes society is better served by allowing people to use copyrighted materials without going through the process of obtaining permission.  Favored uses specifically mentioned in the statute include "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research," but this list is non-exhaustive: any use passing the "four-factor fair use test" can be considered "fair."

How does fair use work?

§ 107 states: "In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.


This guide does not constitute legal advice. If you have legal questions, please contact a lawyer.