Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows the public to make limited use of copyrighted works without permission. Fair use may not be what you expect. Therefore, do not assume that a nonprofit, educational use or giving credit for the source of the work, or that limiting access to materials to students in the class creates an inherent fair use. Fair use depends on a balancing of four factors, which may be addressed by a variety of means. The four factors are:

  1. Purpose of the Use
    • Materials should be used in class only for the purpose of serving the needs of specified educational programs.
    • Students should not be charged a fee specifically or directly for the materials.
  2. Nature of the Work
    • Only those portions of the work relevant to the educational objectives of the course should be used in the classroom.
    • The law of fair use applies more narrowly to highly creative works; accordingly, avoid substantial excerpts from novels, short stories, poetry, modern art images, and other such materials.
    • Instructors should carefully review uses of “consumable” materials such, as test forms and workbook pages that are meant to be used and repurchased.
  3. Amount of the Work
    • Materials used in the classroom will generally be limited to brief works or brief excerpts from longer works. Examples: a single chapter from a book, individual articles from a journal, and individual news articles.
    • The amount of the work used should be related directly to the educational objectives of the course.
  4. Effect of the Use on the Market for the Original
    • The instructor should consider whether photocopying harms the market or the sale of copyrighted material.
    • Materials used in the class should include a citation to the original source of publication and a form of a copyright notice.
    • The instructor should consider whether materials are reasonably available and affordable for students to purchase—whether as a book, course pack, or another format.