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What is Fair Use

On its face, the fair use doctrine appears to be straightforward. The doctrine allows a person to use a copyrighted work in a reasonable manner without the permission of the copyright holder. Stated another way, fair use allows a person to exercise one or more of the exclusive rights of a copyright holder without his or her consent.

The law calls for a balanced application of the four fair use factors listed below when determining if a use should be considered a fair use. Each scenario presents a unique set of facts that must be examined on a case-by-case basis. Unfortunately there are no one size fits all answers when talking about fair use.

The four fair use factors, as found in Section 107 of the Copyright Act, are:

(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.
To help with your fair use analysis, the Sterne Library has created a Fair Use Checklist that can be used to more thoroughly explain and help you weigh each factor. We recommended that you complete and retain a copy of this form in connection with each "fair use" of a copyrighted work.

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