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Copyright, Fair Use and Electronic Reserves for Faculty

Information on fair use guidelines and electronic reserves at Gannett Library.

Fair Use FAQs

1. What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. 

2. What is fair use?

Fair use is a concept embedded in U.S. law that recognizes that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright holder (Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act).

The Fair Use Doctrine is probably the most important exemption to copyright protections for educational settings, allowing many uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching and research.

3. What determines fair use?

The following four factors are used to determine if a use is fair:

   1. The purpose of the use (e.g. commercial vs. educational)*

   2. The nature of the copyrighted work

   3. The amount of the material used

   4. The effect of use on the potential market for or value of the work

*Not all uses in an academic context are automatically considered fair use! 

4. How can I tell if what I want to use falls under the fair use guidelines? 

The fair use checklist and variations on it have been widely used for many years to help educators, librarians, and other users of copyrighted works determine whether their activities are within the limits of fair use under U.S. copyright law (Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act).  Fair use is determined by a balanced application of the four factors set forth in the statute (see above).  Those factors form the structure of the checklist.