What is Fair Use? Essentially, it is an exception to copyright law that allows you to legitimately use copyrighted works under certain conditions and for certain purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and parody. Fair uses need neither permission nor approval.
Four Factors of Fair Use
The Fair-Use Statute, Section 107 includes four factors for evaluation to determine if something falls under an allowed “fair use.” The statute is broad on purpose to allow for interpretation and flexibility:
1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes [“educational purposes” can sometimes, but not always, be a strong factor that allows copying to qualify under fair use guidelines]
2. The nature of the copyrighted work [a compilation of facts is more likely to constitute fair use, rather than a copyrighted song].
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole [the smaller the amount copied, the more likely that it will be allowed under fair use].
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work [content considered to have low market value may be a better candidate for fair use].
And the section concludes: “The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.”
Fair Use in Teaching and Research
Try some of the Four Factors tests at these sites:
University of California: http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/copyright/fairuse.html#2
University of Texas: http://copyright.lib.utexas.edu/copypol2.html#test
University of Washington: http://depts.washington.edu/uwcopy/Copyright_Law/Fair_Use/Four.php
For More Information
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries (2012)