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Vol State Teaching & Learning Center

Fair Use

Explanation of the fair use provision and resources to help determine fair use.

What is Fair Use?

Fair Use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. 

SOURCEFair Use Index from U.S. Copyright Office. Accessed 4/13/2021.

Fair Use Factors

There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances.

The fair use provisions of the copyright law identifies four factors:

  • the purpose of use;
  • the nature of the use;
  • the amount of the work used; and
  • the use's effect on the market.

You must consider all four factors. Each situation is unique.

Tools

These tools are available to help you apply the four factors  to your particular situation and keep you in compliance with copyright law.

Resources