Under the “fair use” rule of copyright law, an author may make limited use of another author’s work without asking permission. However, “fair use” is open to interpretation. Fair use is intended to support teaching, research, and scholarship, but educational purpose alone does not make every use of a work fair. It is always important to analyze how you are going use a particular work against the following four factors of fair use.
The Fair Use Evaluator can help you decide if you are using copyrighted materials "fairly" under the U.S. Copyright Law.
Exceptions for Instructors assists in identifying if an intended use meets the requirements set out in the copyright law.
U.S. Copyright Office provides a fact sheet
University of Texas provides a summary of Fair Use.
Guidelines for Best Practice (the following are not legally binding)
"The code identifies eight situations that represents the library community's current consensus about acceptable practices for the fair use of copyrighted materials and how those rights should apply in certain recurrent situations." Click on Code of Best Practices in Fair Use and Academic and Research Libraries to download the document.
"Created by the International Communication Association. Helps U.S. communication scholars to interpret the copyright doctrine of fair use."
"A code of best practices that helps educators using media literacy concepts and techniques to interpret the copyright doctrine of fair use."
"A code of best practices designed to help those preparing OpenCourseWare (OCW) to interpret and apply fair use under United States copyright law."
"A code of best practices that helps creators, online providers, copyright holders, and others interested in the making of online video interpret the copyright doctrine of fair use. "
The following two charts can provide helpful information on deciding if you are using copyrighted material fairly.
Guidelines for Print Materials:
Guidelines for Distributing Copies
Guidelines for Using Materials Found on the Internet
Guidelines for Using Multi-Media
Multimedia works are created by combining copyrighted media elements such as motion media, music, other sounds, graphics, and text. It is recommended that you use only small portions of other people's works.
What is considered a small portion?
The following guidelines allow you to use multimedia without permission of lawfully acquired copyrighted works.
Guidelines for Images
Fair Use Guidelines For Digital Images provides useful information for assessing fair use of digital images.
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media
The Center for Social Media in the School of Communication at American University, the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property in American University Washington College of Law, and the Media Education Lab of Temple University are conducting a project 2007-2009 to clarify fair use in media education, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. This project will help media literacy educators understand their rights under the doctrine of fair use in order to help them more effectively use media as an essential part of their teaching.