Understanding Fair Use

For educational institutions like Carleton College, many copyright decisions hinge on whether our use of copyrighted material falls under the Fair Use clause.

This section of copyright law states that "fair use of a copyrighted work...for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright" (U.S.C Title 17, Section 107).

Establishing Fair Use: The Four Factors

Does Fair Use mean that everything is fair game if you're using it at an educational institution? Definitely not! Your intended use must be measured against certain criteria, commonly known as the four factors:

  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.

THINKING THROUGH FAIR USE from the University of Minnesota Libraries will help you conduct a four-factor review of your intended use.

Recommended Educational Materials

Understanding Fair Use
University of Minnesota Libraries

Copyright and Fair Use Overview
Stanford University Libraries