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Faculty & Staff: Copyright and Fair Use

Fair Use Information

image of the word copyright

Fair Use

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. "Fair Use" YouTube, 3 Oct. 2016,


The four categories of Fair Use:

target iconPurpose 

Fair Use requires that your intended use of the copyrighted materials is transformative.

Some examples of a transformative purpose are:

  • Analysis or criticism
  • Commentary
  • Parody

When the use is educational in nature, you get extra points to tip the balance in your favor. 

quill iconNature of the Work

Once you know why you plan to use something, think about how you would define the work you're considering.

Is the work:

  • Factual in nature? (Something factual is more likely to be eligible for fair use than a work of fiction.)
  • Already published? (Fair use is more likely to cover a published work than a work created for private purposes.)


amount iconAmount and Sustainability

Fair Use usually requires that you use only a portion of the work, usually one that would not be considered the "heart."

  • How much of the work do you want to copy or distribute?
  • How important to the work is the section you're using?
  • If you must use the whole work, is there a very obvious reason that the work cannot be reduced to only a portion (i.e. photographs, poems)?


gears iconEffect

Fair Use limits the monetary effect on the copyright holder.

Factors to consider:

  • Could your readers easily obtain their own copies instead of using your scanned version?
  • Is the copyright holder easy to identify?  Could you reasonably be expected to contact them for permission? (If so, it's always best to seek permission.) 
  • Could your copying or redistribution of the work cause the copyright holder to lose money?
  • Was the original copy you're using purchased and obtained legally?

These links lead to further information on Fair Use:

Using the Fair Use Exception 

Under certain circumstances, you may reproduce a portion of a work without the copyright holder's permission.

For the most part, these circumstances arise in an educational setting, though there are commercial uses that may be permitted under fair use.

This exception is vital to supporting education.


Just because you want to use a copyrighted work in an educational setting doesn't mean that your use will be considered "fair use."  It is up to you, the educator, to evaluate your intended usage and determine whether or not it meets all four requirements of the fair use doctrine.

And remember... Always give proper attribution (cite!) to the materials you're using, even if you're satisfied that your situation falls under the fair use doctrine.


If you've evaluated your intended use and determined that you don't meet the Fair Use requirements, don't give up!

The next step is requesting Permission from the copyright holder.

Many publishers will grant permission for copyrighted work to be used in a classroom setting.

Visit the publisher's website for information about requesting permission.

The Creative Commons allows creators to license their work for use by the public under their own terms. Not all works with a CC license are within the public domain. Make sure to check the license type for how the creator wishes for their work to be used. Logo Guide

"Creative Commons Licenses Infographic" by ricardo56 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.


Here are several websites you can use to find content with a CC license:

desktop computer iconTechnology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act

The Act revises Section 110(2) and 112 of the U.S. Copyright Law, which applies to accredited, nonprofit educational institutions in the U.S, and lays out the guidelines by which they may use copyrighted materials. The major provisions of the act apply specifically to online and distance education courses. For more information, visit ALA's Resource Guide at:

The T.E.A.C.H. Act

The T.E.A.C.H. Act is a set of regulations that covers the use of copyrighted materials in digital learning environments. The criteria for using these materials in your online class are as follows:

  • The use must be part of mediated, instructional activities.
  • The use must be limited to a specific number of students enrolled in a specific class.
  • The use must either be for ‘live’ or asynchronous class sessions.
  • The use must not include the transmission of textbook materials, materials “typically purchased or acquired by students,” or works developed specifically for online uses.
  • The institution must have developed and publicized its copyright policies, specifically informing students that course content may be covered by copyright, and include a notice of copyright on the online materials.


To use copyrighted material in your online courses, make sure you meet these requirements:

person iconStudent use of copyrighted materials is supervised by the instructor.


target iconThe materials used must be relevant to the educational goals of the course. 


people iconOnly students enrolled in the course may access copyrighted materials shared by the instructor (this excludes guests and observers).

key iconStudents should not be able to access the copyrighted materials after completing the course. 


Stpapers iconudents may not copy and redistribute the copyrighted material to anyone not enrolled in the course.  The instructor must take reasonable provisions to ensure that this is not possible. 

round "no" iconUsers of copyrighted materials including students and faculty should not attempt to interfere with a copyrighted material's built-in copyright protections.