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Fair Use

The fair use doctrine allows the use of copyrighted works without first seeking permission from the rights holder under certain conditions. Fair use strongly applies to educational and non-profit institutions. When do you need to consider fair use in your classroom?

 Some example situations are:

  • Uploading materials to Moodle
  • Working with distance learners
  • Sharing articles and other materials with colleagues and your students
  • Working with community members
  • Placing copies on reserve at the library

In order for copyrighted works to be used fairly you need to consider and weigh the impact on the four factors below. For more information see the US Copyright Office - Fair Use.

  1. The purpose and character of the use
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality you use
  4. The effect of the use on the market

The ARL Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries [.PDF] consolidates the four factors into two useful analytical questions:

  • Factors 1 & 2: Did the use "transform" the material taken from the copyrighted work by using it for a broadly beneficial purpose different from that of the original, or did it just repeat the work for the same intent and value as the original? (p. 8)
  • Factors 3 & 4: Was the material taken appropriate in kind and amount, considering the nature of the copyrighted work and of the use? (p. 8)

Below are links to the fair use chart from the ARL and a check list from Columbia University. Both are great tools to help you think about copyright and fair use, however they do not determine fair use for every case.

Other Rights of Use

Copyright law allows for other types of use without evoking the fair use doctrine. The list below is derived from the Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office.

1st Sale (Section 109a): This section of copyright law allows individuals or other organizations (eg: libraries) to lend, resell, donate, dispose or transfer ownership of lawfully obtained copies of a copyrighted work. For example, professors may place personal copies of materials on reserve at the library without infringing on copyright or evoking fair use.

Formatting for Persons with Disabilities (Section 121): Section 121 allows for "authorized entities" to make copies of copyrighted works to grant people with disabilities equal access. For instance, a disabilities office at an academic institution has the right to digitize print materials for use by a student with low vision.

Display and Performance for Classroom Use (Section 110(1)): This sections allows teachers to display, watch or perform copyrighted works in the classroom for educational purposes. Section 110(1) refers primarily to face to face classrooms. For example, a professor can have students recite poetry for educational purposes in the classroom.

Display and Performance for Online Courses (Section 110(2)): Commonly referred to the Teach Act, this section specifies conditions where performance rights are granted to distance education. For example, posting a video of copyrighted works to a restricted online course is allowed by Section 110(2).

Library and Archive Preservation (Section 108): Allows libraries and archives to make copies of copyrighted material for preservation purposes. For example, print photographs of Wheelock from the 1970s are digitized to protect and preserve the image.

Public Displays (Section 109c): This section allows for public display of purchased copyrighted works. For instance, libraries can create promotional displays with the materials purchased for their collection.

Additional Resources on Copyright and Fair Use

Association of Research Libraries Copy Rights Chart
Fair Use Checklist - Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office
Other Rights of Use - Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office

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