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Copyright Basics

Policy Number 6-15: Copyright and Fair Use in Instruction and Research

Four Factors for Fair Use Analysis

 The doctrine of fair use is one of the more important limitations to copyright law.  The doctrine of fair use has been developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years and has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.  Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of 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
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

Thoughtful analysis of these four factors in relationship to the need for the copy must be made in order to arrive at a good faith determination of fair use for a specific situation. Authors are encouraged to use the Fair Use Worksheet attached to this document and to file the completed worksheet with the product.  When relying on fair use, proper attribution should be included and material should be marked to indicate copyright protection.

Classroom Copies, Coursepacks, and Reserve Materials

Classroom Copies

Faculty are encouraged to use the four factors and the Fair Use Checklist provided in this document instead of the older 1976 Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-for-profit Educational Institutions with Respect to Books and Periodicals (often referred to as the "Classroom Guidelines").


Coursepacks are not covered by fair use. UD Graphic Communications obtains the appropriate copyright clearances and handles the charges. Details of the Graphics Communications Center Coursepack Reproduction Procedures are posted at

Library Reserve Material

The Library adheres carefully to copyright law. For more information about copyright and electronic reserve material, please see the information posted at When library staff are reviewing documents submitted for Electronic Reserves, they will be considering the four factors of fair use as provided by copyright law (Title 17, Section 107) as listed in this document.

Instruction Materials

Curriculum for Teachers

Infographics and Charts

  • Fair use infographic - Youth and Media at Berkman Center for Internet and Society

  • Fair Use fundamentals - Association of Research Libraries

  • Visual Arts and Fair Use - Center for Media and Social Impact at American University


How do I decide if it is fair use?

A Fair(y) Use Tale

A Fair(y) Use Talea very short film by Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University, takes an informative and humorous look at fair use and copyright using clips from Disney movies.

Guide to Fair Use by TheLamp

Five videos for Fair Use Week

How Have We Faired? Fair Use, A Year In Review,  Ann Thornton, university librarian and vice provost of Columbia University, explains in a four-minute video how fair use has contributed to allowing “quality” access to scholarly materials. Thornton also talks about the importance of open access and why it must act in tandem with fair use.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Libraries highlights in a two-minute video its collection of Great Smoky Mountains postcards and digitization of this collection under fair use.

Texas A&M University Libraries has created a two-minute video explaining what fair use is and how, rather than creating strict rules about fair use, the university libraries has empowered faculty to determine what is fair use in the context of their own classrooms.

University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst Libraries highlights in a one-minute video its W. E. B. Du Bois collection as an example of one of its special collections that it has digitized and made available online relying on fair use.

Gerald Beasley, vice-provost and chief librarian at the University of Alberta, emphasizes in a four-minute video the balance of rights in copyright.