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Copyright, Fair Use, DMCA & The TEACH Act

This research guide is designed to help faculty in the usage of copyrighted material in online instruction. Navigate the pages of this guide using the menu below. This guide is not a substitute for Legal Advice.

What Is Fair Use?

In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an illegal infringement..  


Web Resources on Fair Use

Fair Use Tools

Please refer to these helpful tools to learn about using book chapters, journal articles, and media in the classroom and in online courses.

Checklist for Fair Use from the Copyright Advisory Office, Columbia University Libraries/Information Services

Copyright & Fair Use - A comprehensive information resource from Stanford University

Fair Use Challenges in Academic and Research Libraries, a report that summarizes research into the current application of fair use and other copyright exemptions to meet the missions of U.S. academic and research libraries.

Fair Use Evaluator by Michael Brewer & ALA Office for Information Technology Policy

Center for Media & Social Impact Fair Use Teaching Tools - The Center for Media & Social Impact has created a set of teaching tools for professors who are interested in teaching their students about fair use. 

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video by the Center for Social Media and The Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, Washington College of Law, both at American University.

Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use, a handbook written by veteran filmmakers to help other filmmakers understand some instances where using copyrighted material without clearance is considered fair use, and more information such as classroom tools and videos about fair use.

Fair Use Guidelines

Fair Use Guidelines

CWUP 5-120-040 Fair Use Guidelines

The Copyright Act of 1976 (Title 17 U.S. Code) grants to copyright owners the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display their works.

As a general rule, copying, distributing, making derivative works, displaying or performing copyright-protected work requires the permission of the copyright owner.  However, copyright law provides several important exceptions to this rule.  The best known exception to copyright owners’ exclusive rights is Fair Use.

The principle of Fair Use has been developed through many court decisions and is codified in Section 107 of the copyright law.  Section 107 sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether a particular item falls under Fair Use:

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.

4.    The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

For purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, the use made of a copyrighted work is Fair Use and is not an infringement of copyright.  For more information see (U.S. Copyright Office – Fair Use Factsheet).  (Modified from The University of Washington Libraries and The University at Buffalo Libraries.)

[Responsibility: Library Dean; Authority: Marilyn Levine, Provost/VP for Academic and Student Life; Reviewed/Endorsed by Provost’s Council; 09-11-2013: Cabinet/UPAC; Review/Effective Date: 02-05-2014; Approved by: James L. Gaudino, President]

Fair Use for Academic Research Libraries