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Copyright and Fair Use : What is Fair Use?

A guide for LU students, faculty, and staff regarding U.S. copyright law and fair use. Please reach out to us for a consultation if needed.

What is Fair Use?

U.S. Copyright law contains a section outlining what constitutes fair use. In short, fair use can be asserted for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research if the following factors are considered:

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
    • (nonprofit education purposes are more likely to be considered a fair use than commerical ones)
  • the nature of the copyrighted work;
    • (published works and factual works are more likely to be considered a fair use than unpublished or creative works)
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;
    • (the less you use, the more likely it constitutes a fair use)
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
    • (If your fair use would deprive the creator of income, you have a bad chance of getting and losing a lawsuit)

Measuring Fair Use - The Four Factors - Stanford University Libraries

Summaries of Fair Use cases - Stanford University Libraries

Warning: Fair use is a legal defense, not a right under the law. Seek out legal advice from the university lawyer if you are unsure whether your use falls under fair use.