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Fair Use : Does my use qualify as fair use?

A guide to fair use and copyright, and how those subjects relate to academic teaching.

Does this qualify as fair use?

How do I assess whether or not my intended use of this copyrighted item qualifies as fair use? 

*Note: tools and checklists for ease of your evaluation are in the next tab. 

There are four factors which must be considered when determining whether a use falls under fair use. 

  • purpose and character of use
  • nature of copyrighted work 
  • amount and sustainability
  • effect on potential market

Courts evaluate fair use claims on a case-by-case basis, and the outcome of any given case depends on a fact-specific inquiry. This means that there is no formula to ensure that a predetermined percentage or amount of a work.

And: reasonable, good-faith effort reduces liability 

Section 504 of the Copyright Law contains language reducing liability for educators and librarians who make a reasonable and good-faith effort to determine whether a particular use is fair. Your use of a checklist can help demonstrate this type of good-faith effort, if you are concerned that the author will sue you for infringement.




To assist you in determining how risky your intended use is, there are various tools for you to consult. The infographic below helps you gauge your risk level. For additional tools, click the tab, Fair Use Evaluation Tools.


                                                     Thumbnail of Fair Use Stoplight image in black and white. Plain text description follows.


Image credit: from NYU's  Figure 14.1. “Gauge Your Risk” stoplight model. Adapted from “Teaching Our Faculty: Developing Copyright and Scholarly Communication Outreach Programs,” by J. Duncan, S. K. Clement, and B. Rozum, 2013, in S. Davis-Kahl and M. K. Hensley (Eds.), Common ground at the nexus of information literacy and scholarly communication, p. 280. Copyright 2013 by the Association of College and Research Libraries. Adapted with permission.


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.