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This is the "Fair Use and Copyright" page of the "Scholarly Communication" guide.
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Scholarly Communication   Tags: data, faculty, open_access, publishing, scholarly_communications  

Last Updated: Jun 8, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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About Fair Use

Fair use, or the use of another's copyrighted work by reproduction or other means for purposes such as teaching, parody, criticique, comment, news reporting, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. 

However, fair use does come with limits.  Section 107 of the Copyright Act lists four factors to consider when trying to determine whether use of copyrighted content constitutes fair use:

The purpose or character of the use

Is the use for non-profit education or commercial purposes?  Courts usually favor the former as fair use, but there have been cases where educational uses have not met the criteria for fair use and cases where commercial purposes have.

Also consider whether the use can be considered as transformative. Has the original work been transformed by adding new expression, meaning, information, insights, or value?

The nature of the copyrighted work

Factual works are more likely to be suitable for fair use than fictional ones (because facts are objective, cannot be copyrighted, and are often beneficial to the public, whereas courts are protective of creative works).  In addition, published works are usually more suitable for fair use than unpublished ones (because the author has the right to control the first appearance of the work).  Use of commercial works created specifically for the educational market is usually not deemed fair use, because such use goes against the works' intended purpose.

The amount used

The larger the amount used in proportion to the whole, the less likely a court will be to find it fair use.  However, even uses of a small portion can be deemed not to be fair use, if that portion comprises the "heart of the work".

The effect on the potential market or value

If the use diminishes the value or market for the copyrighted work and/or the copyright holder is likely to face an economic loss they would otherwise receive, the use is not likely to be found fair..


What if I acknowledge the original copyright holder?

Bear in mind that acknowledging the copyright holder and citing the original work does not automatically make a use fair.  Similarly, attaching a disclaimer that a new use is not associated with or approved by the original copyright holder does not absolve one of copyright infringement.  It will still be necessary to conduct a fair use analysis and, if the new use does not meet the fair use guidelines (or another legal exception), to seek permission from the copyright holder.

Understanding Copyright

Copyright is a form of intellectual property protection that gives the creator of an original work the exclusive right to use and be credited for it.  Generally, you do not have the right to use someone else's copyrighted work without permission or a fair use defense.  However, there are a few scenarios in which you may be able to use previously copyrighted work even without a fair use excuse. 

Using Copyrighted Material in the Classroom

The copyright law of the United States (title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.


What if I own the copyright?

For information about your rights as a copyright owner, including how to allow reuse of your work, transfer specific rights to other parties, or retain certain rights after publication, please visit the Author Rights tab.

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