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Scholarly Communication Toolkit: Fair Use

Fair Use Explained

Fair use is a statutory exception to the copyright holder's bundle of exclusive rights. It allows for the unlicensed (that is, without permission or payment of royalty) use of a copyrighted work where the balance of several factors weighs in favor of such use. Four of these factors are specifically enumerated in the statute. Application of fair use requires a factual analysis of these four factors as applied to the facts of the proposed use. Although no single factor is determinative, recent court decisions reveal that transformative use is an important consideration as is the potential harm to the market for the copyrighted work.

The four statutory factors of fair use are:

  1. The purpose and character of the proposed use
  2. The nature of the work being used
  3. The amount of the work being used
  4. The effect of the use upon the market for the copyrighted work

Several factual inquiries drive analysis of each of the four factors. The resources in this Toolkit can help libraries understand and conduct these inquiries. Several libraries have also created excellent guides to understanding and applying the four factors:

Fair Use Tools

Further Reading on Fair Use