• Fair Use and Other Educational Uses

    Using copyrighted material in your teaching

    Fair Use

    Copyright law provides for the principle, commonly called "fair use" that the reproduction of copyright works for certain limited, educational purposes, does not constitute copyright infringement. The Copyright Act establishes a four factor test, the "fair use test," to use to determine whether a use of a copyrighted work is fair use that does not require the permission of the copyright owner. The fair use test is highly fact specific, and much can turn on seemingly insignificant variations on the proposed use.

    To determine whether a proposed use is a fair use, you must consider the following four factors, on which we elaborate more below:

    1. Purpose: The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature, or is for nonprofit education purposes.
    2. Nature: The nature of the copyrighted work.
    3. Amount: The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
    4. Effect: The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

    To establish the strongest basis for fair use, consider and apply the four factors along the lines of these suggestions. You may also want to use the Fair Use Checklist to help evaluate the nature of your use.

    1. Purpose of the Use
      • Materials should be used in class only for the purpose of serving the needs of specified educational programs.
      • Students should not be charged a fee specifically or directly for the materials.
    2. Nature of the Work
      • Only those portions of the work relevant to the educational objectives of the course should be used in the classroom.
      • The law of fair use applies more narrowly to highly creative works; accordingly, avoid substantial excerpts from novels, short stories, poetry, modern art images, and other such materials.
      • Instructors should not distribute copies of "consumable" materials such as test forms and workbook pages that are meant to be used and repurchased.
    3. Amount of the Work
      • Materials used in the classroom will generally be limited to brief works or brief excerpts from longer works. Examples: a single chapter from a book, an individual article from a journal, and individual news articles.
      • The amount of the work used should be related directly to the educational objectives of the course.
    4. Effect of the Use on the Market for the Original
      • The instructor should consider whether the copying harms the market or sale of the copyrighted material.
      • Materials used in the class should include a citation to the original source of publication and a form of a copyright notice.
      • Instructor should consider whether materials are reasonably available and affordable for students to purchase - whether as a book, course pack, or other format.