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Copyright on Campus: Fair Use Guidelines

A user-friendly guide to understanding copyright and fair use issues at Bennington College.

What is Fair Use?

Under the “fair use” rule of copyright law, an author may make limited use of another author’s work without asking permission. However, “fair use” is open to interpretation. Fair use is intended to support teaching, research, and scholarship, but educational purpose alone does not make every use of a work fair. It is always important to analyze how you are going use a particular work against the following four factors of fair use.

  1. What is your purpose in using the material? Are you going to use the material for monetary gain or for education or research purposes?
  2. What is the characteristic nature of work – is it fact or fiction; has it been published or not?
  3. How much of the work are you going to use? Small amount or large? Is it the significant or central part of the work?
  4. How will your use of the work effect the author’s or the publisher’s ability to sell the material? If your purpose is for research or education, your effect on the market value may be difficult to prove. However, if your purpose is commercial gain, then you are not following fair use.

U.S. Copyright Office provides a fact sheet

University of Texas provides a summary of Fair Use.

Is this "Fair Use?"

The following links can provide helpful information on deciding if you are using copyrighted material fairly:

  • The Fair Use Evaluator can help you decide if you are using copyrighted materials "fairly" under the U.S. Copyright Law.
  • Exceptions for Instructors assists in identifying if an intended use meets the requirements set out in the copyright law.
  • Fair Use Checklist for Faculty A tool from The University of Arizona to help instructors determine what can be copied under the law.