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Copyright at CSUEB: Fair Use

Fair Use in U. S. Law

Fair Use recognizes that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright holder.  Remember:  not all academic uses are considered "fair use."  Use one of the "checks" (right column) to make a determination.

There are "four factors" used to determine whether a use is "fair" or not:

(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.


A number of guidelines have been developed to help you determine fair use (links below).  

Dr. Kenneth Crews, currently director of Columbia University's Copyright Advisory Office, has written extensively about the guidelines and the problems of using them as a substitute for fair use. See the following publications:

"The Law of Fair Use and the Illusion of Fair-Use Guidelines." Ohio State Law Journal 62 (2001): 599-702 [available at Ohio State Law Journal].

"Fair Use for Higher Education: Are Guidelines the Answer?" Academe 83 (November-December 1997): 38-40 [abstract available at]

In 1998, the Conference on Fair Use (CONFU) was held.  This initiative of the U.S. government to convene interested parties to negotiate agreed understandings of fair use resulted in proposals; however, they were not adopted.  Links to these guidelines are also below, with notification of their CONFU status.]

Simple Checks You Can Try Yourself

Simple Checks You Can Try Yourself