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Copyright: Fair Use

What is Fair Use?

According to the United States Copyright Office, fair use "is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances."

Section 107 of the Copyright Act covers Fair Use. It states: "Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as..."

  • criticism
  • comment
  • news reporting
  • teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use)
  • scholarship
  • research

" not an infringement of copyright."

According to the Cornell University Library Copyright Information Center, fair use is "a legal exemption to the exclusive rights of copyright holders. Fair use is determined on a case-by-case basis based on the following factors:"

  1. The purpose and character of the use (including whether it is transformative, commercial, non-profit, or educational)
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion to be used
  4. The effect upon the potential market for the copyrighted work

Fair Use Video

Video from the United States Copyright Office: "In this video, find out what 'fair use' is and how it applies when you are looking to use a copyright-protected work. Learn the factors that go into evaluating whether or not a case meets fair use standards."


Fair Use Resources


The staff of the Digital Initiatives department at the North Dakota State Library are not lawyers, nor are they copyright experts. Digital Initiatives will provide help to the best of their ability, but any information provided does not constitute legal advice.

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Many of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.