The United States Copyright Office defines Fair Use as follows:
Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use. Section 107 calls for consideration of the following four factors in evaluating a question of fair use:
In addition to the above, other factors may also be considered by a court in weighing a fair use question, depending upon the circumstances. Courts evaluate fair use claims on a case-by-case basis, and the outcome of any given case depends on a fact-specific inquiry. This means that there is no formula to ensure that a predetermined percentage or amount of a work—or specific number of words, lines, pages, copies—may be used without permission.
Fair use is a longstanding and vital aspect of American copyright law. The goal of the Index is to make the principles and application of fair use more accessible and understandable to the public by presenting a searchable database of court opinions, accessible by category and type of use (e.g., music, internet/digitization, parody). The Fair Use Index tracks a variety of judicial decisions to help both lawyers and non-lawyers better understand the types of uses courts have previously determined to be fair—or not fair. The decisions span multiple federal jurisdictions, including the U.S. Supreme Court, circuit courts of appeal, and district courts. Please note that while the Index incorporates a broad selection of cases, it does not include all judicial opinions on fair use. The Copyright Office will update and expand the Index periodically.
Stanford University Libraries hosts a copyright website that includes this page which analyzes the fair use exception and provides examples of how it has been applied.
This link connects to the Universitry of Texas' analysis of the Fair Use Exemption.
This link connects to Purdue's Fair Use analysis.
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) presents a clear and easy-to-use statement of fair and reasonable approaches to fair use developed by and for librarians who support academic inquiry and higher education. The Code was developed in partnership with the Center for Social Media and the Washington College of Law at American University.
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