Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law is one of the most powerful provisions of the copyright law. This exception allows the use of copyrighted materials for a limited and transformative purpose without asking for permission or paying royalty fees as long as the use of the work meets certain conditions.
These conditions include:
Image in the Public Domain
However, just because a use falls under one of these conditions, does not mean the use will automatically be a fair use. You must conduct a fair use analysis and consider the four factors outlined in U.S. Copyright Law.
Before considering fair use, it is important to understand some key points about fair use.
The four factors of fair use as outlined in the U. S. Copyright law are as follows:
Each time you are considering the use of a copyrighted work, you will need to consider all four factors of fair use. No one factor weighs more in importance than any of the other factors. They should all be reviewed and considered individually and as a whole. Be aware that even after considering all four factors, you will rarely have a definite answer. Most of the time, your analysis will lean towards either being fair or not being fair. Only a court of law can provide a definitive answer in either direction.
There are a number of questions and other considerations you should be aware of when considering fair use.
Purpose & Character of the work:
Generally, non-profit educational or classroom use favors fair use; whereas, commercial use generally does not favor fair use. But be aware that just because you work for a non-profit institution does not mean every use is automatically a fair use. Tying your use of an item to the curriculum, learning outcomes, and/or classroom activities favor fair use; whereas, "nice to know" or "supplemental" materials may not. In addition, there may be cases when for-profit or commercial use may use fair use. This means that careful consideration is needed when considering fair use.
Nature of the work:
Items that are published and fact-based or non-fiction will generally favor fair use; whereas, items that are not published or that are more creative in nature will generally not favor fair use.
Amount and Substantiality of the work:
The third factor is linked closely to the first factor.
The information presented in this guide is intended for informational and educational purposes only. It is not offered as legal advice or counsel. Faculty, staff, students, and others associated with the college should consult an attorney for advice concerning their individual copyright situations and needs.