It Starts with Fair Use
Fair use is part of the copyright law.
It should be a well-thought reason for
copying. Fair use is a “defense” to a claim
of infringement, not an automatic excuse.
Fair use of a copyrighted work can be used
for criticism, comment, news reporting,
teaching, scholarship, and research. Even
with these permissions, not every use in
education is a fair use. If the copying is not
specifically prohibited in the copyright law,
it may be allowed under fair use.
There are no legal rules about how many
words, notes, or minutes can be used, but
it is fair to suggest that one should use as
little as needed.
Fair use was meant to be flexible. You
have to make good decisions based on a
careful study of the circumstances. Use
the four criteria listed below to decide if the
copying is a fair use. All four of the criteria
must be met.
• Purpose and character of the use
(nonprofit, educational, etc.)
• Nature of the copyrighted work
(factual, creative, published, etc.)
• Amount to be copied in relation to the
• Effect of the use upon the potential
market for or value of the work
Here are some basic
questions to help you
decide whether the
copying is a fair use.
• Is it for criticism,
• Is the work copyrighted
• How do you plan to
use the work? Will it be
• Is the work covered by
• Is your use prohibited in
the copyright law?
• Will you need
permission from the
• How much are you
going to use?
• Is the part you want to
copy central to or the
“heart” of the work?
• Is this a one-time use or
repeated or long-term
• Will you be able to
clearly explain (to
how you decided the
copying was a fair use?
Is copyright the same as plagiarism? No, they are different. If you
copy something and pass it off as your own without indicating the source or
the fact that it’s not your own, that’s plagiarism. You can be in trouble even if
you plagiarize something in the public domain or it’s a fair use.