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Copyright for Faculty: Fair Use

Understanding Fair Use

Fair Use is an exemption to copyright law which recognizes that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright holder. This exemption is common for educational settings, allowing many uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching and research. 

While it would be easy to claim fair use for ALL works distributed in an educational setting, there are determining factors that must be considered. Faculty who deem a work to be in line with the Fair Use exemption should document and keep on file their evaluation checklist should any investigation take place.

Use the information in the right-hand column to help you determine if a work is exempt under fair use.

Disclaimer

Grace librarians are not the copyright police, nor are we legal experts in copyright. It is our responsibility to provide resources, but not advice in regards to what you can and cannot do in your courses. The interpretation of copyright law is up to the individual.

1. What Determines Fair Use?

Four factors are used to determine if a use is fair. 
NOTE: All four factors must be considered together when determining if your use of a work is fair.

bulls eye icon for emphasisPurpose and Character
Is the intended use of the copyright material transformative (i.e. analysis or criticism, commentary, parody)? Consider also if the work is commercial in nature or for a nonprofit educational purpose.

bulls eye icon for emphasisNature of the Work
If a work is fact based and developed for research or scholarly use as opposed to a creative work created for commercial purposes, it is more likely to be considered Fair Use. 

bulls eye icon for emphasisAmount and Sustainability of the Portion Used
Fair use requires that you use only a portion of the work in relation to the work as a whole. The greater the amount copied, the less likely it is fair use. Considerations refer to the amount, length, and duration of the use. 

bulls eye icon for emphasisEffect of the Use Upon the Potential Market
In order to favor Fair Use, the use should have little or no effect on the original creator's ability to make money from the work.

Use the resources within this tab to evaluate further. If your evaluation determines that your intended use doesn't meet Fair Use requirements, your next step will be to seek permission from the copyright holder. 

2. Evaluate if Your Intended Purpose Aligns with Fair Use

The resources linked in this section will assist faculty in evaluating works to their intended use in order to determine if the Fair Use exemption applies. Keep evaluation documentation on file should your Fair Use claim be questioned.

3. If Fair Use Doesn't Apply, Seek Permission From the Copyright Holder

If Fair Use doesn't apply, seek permission from the copyright holder to avoid potential legal liability. The copyright holder is not always easy to determine, but a good start is to identify the publisher of a work rather than the author/artist/creator.

Send a letter requesting permission to use the work. Within, be sure to include:

  • Your college affiliation
  • The details of the work you are requesting permission to distribute, including the author, title, page range, number of copies, the form of distribution (class, conference, etc), type of reprint, etc.
  • Any additional narrative details that clarify any of the points listed in the bullets above.
  • Your contact information 

See Appendix A in the Faculty Handbook for a sample permission letter

NOTE: Permission is not always granted in which case contact library@grace.edu for alternative options.