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What is Fair Use?

To create a balance between the interests of those who develop intellectual and creative works and those who benefit from accessing and using those works, copyright law includes exceptions that limit the exclusive rights of copyright holders. One such exception is fair use, which allows users of copyrighted works to exercise some rights to use works under certain circumstances without seeking permission or paying royalties. Fair use is probably the most important exception to copyright protections for educational settings, allowing many uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching and research. At the same time, a fair-use analysis requires a balancing of multiple factors and can be difficult to apply to a given set of circumstances.

The complexity of fair use and its importance in academia make it imperative that every member of the campus instructional community understands how to make judgements concerning fair use. The information and tools linked below are designed to assist your decision-making. When they are combined with thoughtful consideration of the legitimate interests of copyright owners, they will help assure good faith applications of fair use at the university.

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Content in this page was used or adapted with permission from one or more institutions. Please see acknowledgements.

Information in this page was reviewed and approved by legal counsel. Please see disclaimer. Review date: February 2007.

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