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Find resources and recommendations on making legal and ethical use of copyrighted scholarly work.

Questions About Fair Use?

For help determining if your intended use of a work falls under fair use, the library has staff members who can help. Contact us at .

Determining Fair Use

Fair use is a copyright principle that allows consumers of information to make use of intellectual property while still enabling the creator to to own and profit from their work.  If you are using an intellectual work for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research, you are likely falling under the fair use principle of copyright. To make a reasonable judgment about whether the use you make of a copyrighted work is Fair Use, the Copyright law provides a set of four factors in Sec. 107.

Review the Fair Use Checklist for your project

  1. The Purpose and Character of Use: How have you used the work? Have you transformed the original work by adding new expression or meaning?
  2. The Nature of the Copyrighted Work: Is the work factual in nature or creative? Is it unpublished or published? Different factors about the original work will have an effect on fair use.
  3. The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used: How much of the original work are you quoting, summarizing or using? (Quoting three lines of a six line poem is different than quoting three line from a five minute song). And, of the portion that you are using - how much of the “substantial” idea of the work are you using?
  4. The Effect of the Use on the Original Work in the Market: Does the way you use the work deprive the copyright owner of income? Or does it undermine a new or potential market for the original work?

For more information on fair use check out Stanford University's guide to Fair Use.

Fair Use Resources

Classroom Exemption and the TEACH Act

Sections 107 through 122 of the U.S. Copyright Law provide limitations and exceptions to the exclusive rights of the copyright owner.  The most significant of these for academe, is probably Sec. 107, Fair Use, which receives its own "tab" on the left of this page.  Many of the rest of these exceptions and limitations address the specific requirements of the broadcast industry and special formats such as sound recordings, images, sculpture and architectural works.  Here are the most commonly used exceptions:

Sec. 108:  While Section 108 addresses the particular needs of libraries, it is this section which provides the ability of libraries to make copies for both preservation purposes and for the needs of their scholarly clientele.

Sec. 110:  Section 110 embodies much of the work of the TEACH Act and authorizes certain uses of copyrighted materials.  Key to these uses is that the performance or display of a copyrighted work be used "in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution." (Sec. 110-1).  A detailed and useful review of the provisions of the TEACH Act and Sec. 110 may be found below in the Resources box.


Georgia Harper. Copyright Crash Course: The TEACH Act.  Harper's detailed analysis of the provisions of Sec. 110 is followed by a handy checklist.

Peggy Hoon.  The Original TEACH Act Tool Kit.  Hoon's Toolkit includes two checklists to the somewhat detailed and specific requirements of the TEACH Act as well as a useful glossary to the language of the Act.