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Copyright & Fair Use for Students

What is fair use?

Copyright law exists to protect the rights of content creators. However, that does not mean you absolutely cannot use anything that has been copyrighted. Fair Use (Title 17, Section 107 of US Code) allows the use of copyrighted works for purposes such as: 

  • Criticism 
  • Commentary
  • News reporting
  • Teaching
  • Scholarship
  • Research
  • Satire

Fair Use Video

Check out the following video for a quick description of fair use.

Fair Use Factors

The following four factors are used in determining fair use. 


  • Is your use of the copyrighted work transformative? Meaning, are you adding something new, changing the message, function, or expression of the copyrighted work?
  • Are you using the work for educational or commercial purposes? 

Nature of the work

  • What is the copyrighted work you want to use? 
  • Generally, using factual works is more likely to be considered fair use over creative. 

Amount used

  • There is no set amount that you are allowed to use.
  • Usually, the more you use, the less likely it will be considered fair use. 
    • However, keep in mind that if you are taking the most important or memorable part of a work, it is less likely to be considered fair use even if you are using only a small amount.

Effect of use

  • Is your use depriving the copyright owner of income?

ARL Fair Use Fundamentals Infographic

Source: Association of Research Libraries  

Fair Use Tools

Use the following tools to help determine whether or not what you are using falls under fair use.