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Copyright @ UW-River Falls

Have questions about copyright? Check out this guide.

What is Fair Use?

Fair use, outlined in section 107, title 17, U.S. Code, allows copyrighted works to be reproduced for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. If a use of a copyrighted work is determined to be fair, you do not need to pay royalties or obtain permission to use or reproduce the work.

Section 107 sets out four factors that must be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair. Those factors are:

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • the nature of the copyrighted work
  • amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

All educational uses of copyrighted works are not necessarily fair. Each time a copyrighted work is used, a fair use analysis must be conducted using the four factors. Generally, if you are using a small amount of a published, factual work in an educational setting, and that use has no effect on the market for that work, your use is likely fair. It is the responsibility of all UW-River Falls faculty, staff, and students to conduct a fair use analysis each time a copyrighted work is used, and to make a reasonable, good faith determination if the use is fair or not.

Non-Fair Use Activities

Although you must determine fair use on a case-by-case basis, some uses of copyrighted works clearly are not fair. Some examples of activities that would not pass a fair use analysis are:

  • copying large sections of a work (the “heart of the work”) and distributing it to all students in a class or posting it online for students
  • combining a number of copyrighted works into a course pack and selling copies to students without obtaining permission or paying royalties
  • taping a movie to show in class and retaining and using the copy indefinitely
  • duplicating an entire CD or video and giving the copy to a friend
  • sharing copies of copyrighted music or software on the internet
  • obtaining a video on loan, duplicating it, and using it in class
  • posting to the Web, a slide show of personal photo that is accompanied by copywritten music

Fair Use Evaluator

The Fair Use Evaluator is an online tool that steps you through the process of conducting a fair use analysis prior to using a copyrighted work in an educational setting.  Based on information that you provide, it will tell you how "fair" your use of a copyrighted work will be.  It provides a time-stamped PDF of your fair use evaluation that you can retain for your files.

Fair Use Guidelines

Because the distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear, groups of interested individuals that have a stake in copyright compliance have written guidelines that help define fair use of copyrighted materials in certain situations. UW-River Falls does not endorse these guidelines as policy, but suggests that faculty, students, and staff refer to these guidelines as minimum application of the fair use exemption. While a final determination of fair use legally can be made only after a good faith analysis of the four fair use factors, the guidelines may be helpful during that analysis. The guidelines are outlined in the Final Report to the Commissioner on the Conclusion of the Conference on Fair Use

More information:

U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Fact Sheet