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Copyright @SVCC

Basic introduction to copyright in the educational environment.

17 U.S.C. Section 107. Limitations on exclusive use: Fair Use

Scales icon 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, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. 

Fair Use is a legal exemption to the exclusive rights of copyright holders and a defense against charges of copyright infringement. It allows for reproduction of copyrighted works under certain circumstances like teaching, criticism and scholarship, and it is predicated upon legal ownership of the material to be copied or shared by faculty or by the institution. Evaluation of Fair Use is measured against four factors.

The Four Factors of Fair Use

Nonprofit educational use is favored over commercial use, and transformative use is favored over exact copies.

Transformative use adds to or changes the original work in a way that gives it new meaning or expression. Here are some examples:

  • Quotations integrated into a paper
  • Parts of different works mixed into a multimedia project
  • Multiple copies for classroom use
  • Preservation of an original copy (digitizing original analog copy)

Use of informational works is favored over use of creative works such as:

  • novels, short stories, poetry
  • art images
  • music
  • feature films

Only those portions or excerpts of a work that are relevant to the fair use purpose should be used, and use of consumable materials such as test forms, workbook pages, etc. is rarely favored.

Quantitative amount is relative to the length of the entire work - use only that which is needed to serve the immediate purpose. Suggested amounts:

  • one chapter of a book or one article from a periodical
  • a thumbnail image or short segment of a video
  • in general no more than 10% of a work

Qualitative amount takes into account the value of the portion used, and the portion that is used should not be the “heart of the work” or core element.

Use of the work should not affect potential marketability or sales. Would your intended use of the work potentially displace sales?

  • Digital excerpt licenses should be purchased if available, and if available, failure to purchase the license would weigh against fair use.
  • If a copy can be obtained for a reasonable price, it should be purchased. This would apply especially in cases where the amount copied is extensive. (Ex: copying an entire short story from a book of short stories.)


This library guide is published for informational purposes and should not be interpreted as a substitute for legal advice.

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