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Copyright: Fair Use

What Is Fair Use?

§107 of the United States Code, Title 17 provides for fair use. Fair use allows for copyrighted works to be used for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research without infringing so long as the four factors below are used to evaluate whether a use is fair or not.

The four fair use factors are:

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • the nature of the copyrighted work
  • the 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 four factors must be individually assessed for each use and cannot be applied in a mathematical way (i.e. having three out of four factors in favor of fair use does not equate to "75% fair use" and is not automatically allowed).

Fair Use Worksheet

For a worksheet that will help you determine if your use qualifies as "fair," see the Georgetown University Library's Fair Use Evaluation Worksheet.

Transformative Uses

For a use to be "transformative," it must "add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and...not substitute for the original use of the work."

A transformative work is not a derivative work - derivative works are the right of the copyright holder exclusively. Rather, a transformative work significantly changes the original to transform it into a new, copyrightable work.

You should ask yourself: has new expression or meaning been added to the original work and was value added to the original through the incorporation of new information, aesthetics, insights and understandings?

"More Information on Fair Use,"
"Fair Use: What Is Transformative?", NOLO

Fair Use Graphic

Graphic courtesy of Digital Scholarship, Georgetown University Library, CC by-NC 4.0.
College for Creative Studies website