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Copyright Guide for Students : Fair Use

Fair Use

According to law, materials that are subject to copyright restrictions still need to be available to re-use for socially-valuable purposes such as teaching, news reporting, parody, or critical comment. This is called "fair use." Such uses can be made without permission from the copyright owner.

In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and "transformative" purpose such as to comment upon, criticize or parody a copyrighted work.

Determining what qualifies as a fair use is more of an art than a science and, ultimately, the only way to get a definitive answer on whether a particular use is a fair use is to have it resolved in federal court. Given that, we use the general guidance of the law and information about how courts have ruled in the past to make the best decision we can.

How do I decide if my uses for this project are fair?

The right way to make that decision is to conduct a fair use analysis for every source.

Consult the Copyright Advisory Network'

Fair Use Evaluator tool

to walk you through each fair use decision.

Generally speaking, sources you include that are necessary for you to make a particular point (e.g. an image that illustrates the specific point you're making about Japanese visual culture) are more likely to be fair uses while sources you use primarily to enhance the work (e.g. background music that isn't directly related to the point you're making) are unlikely to be fair uses.