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Fair Use Checklist


There's no one right answer as to what constitutes a "fair use" of a particular copyrighted work. The answer varies from situation to situation.

A good point to consider is this: Have you made a "good faith" effort to comply with the "fair use" clause of U.S. Copyright Law?

"Four factors" are considered in all fair use evaluations. They are:

  1. Purpose & character
  2. Nature of the work
  3. Amout
  4. Effect

These four factors are not meant to be exclusive and must be examined together. 

The statute does not indicate how much weight is to be accorded each factor. Historically the courts have placed the most emphasis on "effect", while the "nature" of the copyrighted work is usually considered to be the least important factor.

 An excellent resource to use is the ALA's Fair Use Evaluator.

Copyright FAQ - Educational Use

Educational Use

Under the “fair use” provision of copyright law, a person may make limited use of another author’s work without asking permission. As I note in the Fair Use Checklist box:

"There's no one right answer as to what constitutes a "fair use" of a particular copyrighted work. The answer varies from situation to situation."

Please use these examples as a suggested starting point and be sure to use the Fair Use Evaluator, if you deem it appropriate to do so. Also, please be advised that courts are not bound by established standards or guidelines and the Copyright Act contains no such standards. Therefore, we advise that you conduct your own fair use evaluation. 

Print Materials:

  • A single chapter from a book (5% of work for in print; 10% of work for out of print)
  • A single article from a journal issue or newspaper
  • A short story, essay, or poem from an individual work.
  • A single chart, diagram, graph, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, journal, magazine, or newspaper.

Distributing Copies

  • Copies made should not substitute the purchase of books, journals, etc.
  • Always provide a copyright notice on the first page of the copied material. At bare minimum your notice should state: "Notice: This material is subject to the copyright law of the United States."
  • Provide only one copy per student.
  • Copying the works for subsequent semesters requires copyright permission from the publisher.

Using Materials Found on the Internet

  • Always credit the source
  • If you are using the information on your personal web page ask permission or simply link to the site
  • If you receive permission to use the material keep a copy for your records

Using Multimedia

Multimedia works are created by combining copyrighted elements such as movies, music, sounds, graphics, and text. It is recommended that you use only small portions of other people's works.

Suggested limits:

  • Movies: Up to 10% or three minutes, whichever is less
  • Text: Up to 10% or 1,000 words, whichever is less. (The limits on poetry are more restrictive.)
  • Music: Up to 10% of an individual copyrighted musical composition. 10% of a copyrighted musical composition on a sound recording. However, no more than 30 seconds may be used without gaining permission from the copyright owner and/or publisher.
  • Photos and Illustrations: Based on the below guidelines, "a photograph or illustration may be used in its entirety, but no more than five images by one artist or photographer may be incorporated into any one multimedia program. From a published collective work, not more than 10% or 15 images, whichever is less, may be used."

CONFU recommendations allow you to use small portions of multimedia works without obtaining copyright permissions. For more information about CONFU please see the appropriate tab in this Libguide. Following CONFU guidelines you may:

  • Incorporate portions of copyrighted works when creating your own multimedia projects for educational or instructional purposes.
    • Students may incorporate "portions" of copyrighted materials for a course-specific project.
    • Students may display their own projects, use them in their E-portfolios, illustrate in a job interview or use as part of their admissions application for a different college.
    • Faculty may use their projects for teaching, distance education, remote instruction, conference presentations, presentations, or those activities that can be tied to their teaching or professional development.
  • Give attribution to the original source (i.e. cite your source!) of all copyrighted material that you use.
  • Place a copyright notice on the opening screen of the multimedia program and accompanying print material that states: "Certain materials in this multimedia presentation are included under the fair use exemption of the U.S. Copyright Law and are restricted from further use."
  • Fair use exemptions of the copyrighted materials expires at the end of two years. To use the multimedia project beyond two years requires the appropriate copyright permissions.