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Copyright and Intellectual Property in the Digital Age: Fair Use

This guide describes the issues surrounding intellectual property, copyright, academic integrity, and plagiarism.

About Fair Use

Why Fair Use matters for students and faculty:  Fair Use the the exception in copyright law that allows for the use of copyrighted material for educational and scholarly purposes - with some caveats.

What is Fair Use?

  • An exception in copyright law that allows you to use another person’s copyrighted work without permission.
  • Used by individuals to assess reuse of copyrighted works.
According to Chapter 1, Section 107 of the Copyright Act:

If works protected by copyright are used  "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching , scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining permitted uses for a work in any particular case, consider the four factors: 

1. Purpose and character of the use

  • Will it be for commercial or non-profit uses?
  • Is the work transformative (does it convey a different message from the original work?  *This is an important consideration since courts tend to favor transformative uses.  

2. Nature of the copyrighted work

  • More original work is given higher copyright protection. Fictional works, for example, will tend to be given more copyright protection while news and biographies will tend to be given less protection.

3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used

  • How much of the work will be used?  The entire work or an excerpt/portion? 

4. Effect of the use upon the market for the copyrighted work

  • Would the use of the work inhibit the ability of the original creator to profit from their work?
  • Weighing each of these factors is not an exact science.  Fair Use analysis is done on a case-by-case basis.
  • More in-depth information about each of the four factors from Stanford University can be found here.

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