Skip to main content


This guide is informational and in no way constitutes legal advice.


What is fair use?

Fair Use places limitations on copyright law for scholarship and educational use. It is a legal principle which "operates as a sensitive balancing of interests" between preserving the economic motivation of authors/creators and the critical need for information sharing in education, research, and scholarship.


According to Section 107, Title 17, US Code, which outlines the Fair Use limitations on exclusive copyright:

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

(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; and

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


Fair use checklist and evaluation tools

Fair Use guidelines and using a Fair Use Checklist will help you to determine if the material you want to use in your instruction falls within the parameters of fair use or if copyright permissions are needed. Utilizing a checklist demonstrates that you operated in good faith and it is therefore advisable that you retain copies for your own personal records.

There are four main factors, judgment should be based on a holistic view of all factors and performed on a case-by-case basis.

Fair Use Checklist

Refer to the Fair Use Checklist from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University, Kenneth D. Crews, director.

Fair Use Evaluator Tool

Online tool to help you evaluate fair use and retain a time stamped pdf for your records.

To find out if your intended use meets the requirements set out in the law, use this free, online tool. This tool can also help you collect information detailing your educational use and provide you with a summary in PDF format.


The library can offer guidance and assist in locating the appropriate resources, however faculty members are individually responsible for determining if their instructional materials and course readings are being used in a way that adheres to fair use and for seeking copyright permissions.