Copyright and Fair Use

This Guide has been created to help students and faculty find information about Copyright and Fair Use in an academic setting. This guide does not constitute legal advice.
  • URL:
  • What Determines Fair Use?

    The following four factors are used to determine if a use is fair:

    1. The purpose of the use (eg. commercial vs. educational)*
    2. The nature of the copyrighted work
    3. The amount of the material used (the greater the amount copied, the less likely it is fair use)
    4. The effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the work

    * Not all uses in an academic context are automatically considered fair use!

    These facts work together to create a large picture and it is always the responsibility of the user to think critically about their usages and make decisions based on the above. For more information about what each of these factors means click here.

    Image licensed under the Creative Commons and adapted from here.

    A (Fair)y Use Tale

    What is Fair Use?

    Fair use is a concept embedded in U.S. law that recognizes that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright holder. (See Title 17, section 107

    Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright...

    The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

    This is one of the major exceptions to the copyright laws because of the perceived benefit of the use of the material. 

    Fair Use in Academia

    The Fair Use Doctrine is one of the most important exemptions to copyright protections for educational settings, allowing many uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching and research. The complexity of fair use and its importance in academia make it imperative that every member of ENC understands how to make judgments concerning fair use.

    Many believe that Fair Use protection allows users in an academic setting free range over the use and distribution of materials, but this is not the case!