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Scholarly Communication: Fair Use

"A Fair(y) Use Tale"

From Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University and the Media Education Foundation, this humorous and informative video uses fairy tale characters to explain the principles of fair use.

Fair Use Resources

Fair Use Tools

About Fair Use

Fair use is undoubtedly one of the most controversial issues in scholarly communication today. An offshoot of copyright law, "fair use" is generally understood to be the lawful use of copyrighted materials by non-copyright holders for the following purposes:

  • criticism
  • comment
  • news reporting
  • teaching
  • scholarship
  • research

Within these general purposes, US Copyright law further identifies four standards by which to judge whether a particular type of use is fair:

  • 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; and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work (Copyright.gov, 2006).

Fair use of materials in the public domain

Materials that are part of the public domain are free to use without restriction. However, you should consult Stanford University Library's Copyright and Fair Use Overview's chapter on Public Domain works to be sure that other restrictions resulting from trademarks and derivations of public domain works do not affect your usage.  See also this chart from the Cornell Copyright Information Center that shows what works are in the public domain as of January 1, 2010.

Fair use and teaching

The Association of Research Libraries has created several guides to help you understand your "copyrights" as an educator:

  • Complete brochure -- full-color edition -- an in-depth guide to your rights and responsibilities when using both your own and others' materials for classroom instruction: [16.4 MB PDF] or [336 KB “zipped” PDF]

  • One-page “What You Can Do” chart--a quick reference sheet to your rights and responsibilities when using both your own and others' materials for classroom instruction: [120 KB PDF]

For more information, visit http://www.knowyourcopyrights.org.