Copyright Management Center

A-Z Index  |  Directories  


Copyright and Fair Use

What is Fair Use?

Fair Use is the limited right of others to use copyrighted material. Typically this right applies to "purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research".

When does Fair Use apply?

Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law states that there are four factors to be considered if Fair Use applies:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commerical nature or is for nonprofit education purposes
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

The distinction between "fair use" and copyright infringement is often unclear and not easily defined. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission. In August of 2012, court rulings provided some guidelines on how much of a work would fall under Fair Use. They are:

  • If the excerpt is from a work that is not divided into chapters or contains fewer than ten chapters, the excerpt does not exceed ten (10) percent of the pages in the work as a whole; or
  • If the excerpt is from a work that contains ten or more chapters, the excerpt does not exceed one (1) chapter

However, even if the amount of copyrighted material falls inside (or outside) these limits, this does not guarantee that your use is or is not Fair Use. To help settle the question, many institutions have developed Fair Use Checklists.

What is the Fair Use checklist?

The Fair Use checklist is a tool designed to help you determine if your use of copyrighted material falls under the Fair Use exception. This particular version was designed by the University System of Georgia. It outlines various factors that will help determine whether or not Fair Use applies. Check all that apply (you may choose more than one per section). Where the factors favoring fair use outnumber those against it, reliance on fair use is justified. Where fewer than half the factors favor fair use, instructors should seek permission from the rights holder. Where the factors are evenly split, instructors should consider the total facts weighing in favor of fair use as opposed to the total facts weighing against fair use in deciding whether fair use is justified.

The Fair Use checklist is available here in PDF format. You should complete and keep a copy of this checklist for each instance of Fair Use in order to establish a "reasonable and good faith" attempt at applying the law, should any problems or complaints arise later on. All use of copyrighted materials, whether Fair Use, a licensed use, or other other rules, should include proper copyright notice and attribution.



2014 Kennesaw State University.
All Rights Reserved.

Kennesaw State University
Sturgis Library
385 Cobb Ave. NW, MD1701
Kennesaw, GA 30144
Phone: 470-578-6248