Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Copyright: Fair Use

What is Fair Use?

Fair use is a fundamental right and legal exemption provided by Section 107 of the Copyright Law to the exclusive rights of copyright holders. Fair use is important as it allows people to progress art and science by allowing the use of existing cultural and scientific works with limitations. It is a "First Amendment Safeguard" that allows for the critique, commentary, and scholarship around works.

Fair use is determined based on the following four factors:

  • The purpose and character of the use
    • Is it transformative, commercial, non-profit, or educational?
    • How much do you need to use to reach your purpose?
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
    • Published vs. unpublished
    • Factual work vs creative work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion to be used
    • Are you using the "heart of the work"?
    • Are you using enough of the work to substitute for people buying the original?
  • The effect upon the potential market for the copyrighted work
    • Are you going to have an economic impact on the market of the original work?
    • If it's an unpublished work, would you impact the future market of the work if it should ever be published?

Intention is an important part of the consideration and something is more likely to be considered fair use if it is transformative in nature. Transformative means it provides a new purpose or creates a new meaning or insight into a work.