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Fair Use

Fair Use is an exemption to copyright law that allows the use of copyrighted works without permission or payment of fees in order to encourage teaching, learning and scholarship. However, a fair use determination must be made for each intended use, and the answer may still be vague or murky. The only way to get a definitive answer on fair use is for a case to go to court and receive a ruling from a judge.  However, this very rarely happens.

Fair Use Evaluator
Use the fair use evaluator tool in order to better understand the four factors of fair use and make your own evaluation of your use of a copyrighted work. The tool generates a PDF of the evaluation for your own records.

Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in the Visual Arts
The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts is based on a consensus of professionals in the visual arts who use copyrighted images, texts, and other materials in their creative and scholarly work and who, through discussion groups, identified best practices for using such materials. They included art and architectural historians, artists, designers, curators, museum directors, educators, rights and reproduction officers, and editors at scholarly publishers and journals.

Principles of Fair Use

Purpose or character of the use

  • Nonprofit or educational uses are favored over commercial uses
  • "Transformative" works that create something new are favored over uses that are mere reproductions.

Nature of the work being used

  • Courts tend to give greater protection to creative works (art, music, poetry, feature films, etc.) than to nonfiction.
  • Use of published materials is favored over unpublished works.

Amount of the work being used, and its substantiality in relation to the whole

  • The more of a work you use, the less likely it will be considered fair use.
  • Even a small portion of work may be excessive if it represents the essential or key element of the work.

Effect of the intended use on the market

  • If the work could have been purchased or licensed for use,  it is not likely fair use.
  • It is not fair use if use deprives the copyright owner of income or a potential market.