Fair Use

Fair use is the U.S. legal doctrine that permits brief excerpts of copyrighted material, under certain circumstances, to be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder. Unlike specific exceptions to the rights of copyright owners, fair use is a flexible standard. Therefore, each application of fair use must be examined on a case-by-case basis.

How to determine fair use?

The Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17) allows the use of copyrighted work for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research (see § 107.Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use.) To qualify for fair use, four factors must be considered:

(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.

Use the Texas State Fair Use Checklist to help determine if your specific use is covered. If your use is not favored under fair use, it may be allowable under other exceptions (such as face-to-face teaching) to the Copyright law. If not, you must get permission from the copyright holder.

Best practices

The Center for Media & Social Impact at American University has worked with a number of communities and attorneys to develop best practices in fair use for a number of specific areas such as documentary film makers, journalism, and the visual arts.