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 What is fair use? 


Fair use is a legal principle that provides certain limitations on copyrighted materials. It is important to realize that there are no bright lines. Assessment of whether or not an intended use is a fair use requires a thoughtful analysis of the context and intentions that underlie that use. Under fair use, a teacher or researcher is allowed a rather limited amount of copying without the copyright owner’s permission for such purposes as: 1) criticism 2) comment 3) news reporting or 4) teaching. These are not the only potential fair uses, but they do apply to many of the activities in which faculty engage.


This source came from the Stony Brook University Library Research and Subject Guides.


The Oxford Dictionary definition of 'fair use' is:

(in US copyright law) the doctrine that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.


Definition found here


UAA's Consortium Library states:


The doctrine of fair use is summed up by the Copyright and Fair Use Website of the Stanford University Librariesas:

  • a principle which is based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for the purposes of commentary and criticism

For example, if you wish to write a review of a play,or criticize a novel, you should be free to quote a portion of the play or the novel without having to ask permission. If this freedom did not exist, copyright owners could stifle negative comments about their work.


The rules about what and what does not constitute fair use are complicated. The Fair Use Checklist from Columbia University Libraries can help you determine if the action you intend to take with a copyrighted work is allowable under the fair use provision.


The Stanford Copyright and Fair Use website includes some information about court cases on fair use which show the facts of each case and the decision made by the court:

The principles of fair use for academic and educational circumstances are different. The Stanford Copyright and Fair Use site provides an overview of the issues in this area which fall under chapter 7 of copyright.


In March 2009, the National Council of Teachers of English issued a new policy document about copyright law, wtih a new code of best practices for fair use in media literacy education. The code is available at: http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/fairusemedialiteracy


DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.