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Copyright & IP @ Whitman: Fair Use


Fair Use is a doctrine which permits limited use of copyrighted materials without the permission of the copyright holder.


U.S. Copyright Office circulars and fact sheets provide detailed information about Fair Use. 

Helpful websites:


  • An educational use of copyrighted materials is not necessarily a fair use.
  • Citing a work is not the same as obtaining permission to use it.
  • Placing a work on a restricted site (such as Canvas) does not necessarily negate the need to obtain copyright permission for use.

Before the next time you cut-and-paste material into a paper, download music, post material onto a Canvas page, copy an article to share with colleagues and friends, or screen a film to a group, remember to conduct a fair use analysis.


Title 17 of the U.S. Code, Section 107 lists a variety of uses of copyrighted works which may be considered Fair Use.  These include criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research.  It also lists four factors that must be evaluated when making a determination if a potential use of copyrighted material qualifies as Fair Use.  These are:

  • The nature and character of the use
    • Will it be for commercial purposes?
    • Is it being used for non-profit, educational purposes?
  • The nature of the work
    • Has it previously been published?
    • Is the work an unpublished manuscript or highly original (e.g., art, fiction, music)?
    • Is the work a consumable (e.g., a workbook)?
  • The amount of the work to be used
    • Will you use more than 10% of a work that doesn't have chapters, or more than 1 chapter of a book with 10 or more chapters?
    • Will you use the entire work?
    • Is the amount used considered the "heart of the work?"
  • The effect of the use on the market for the work
    • Is permission for use readily available?
    • Will the intended use replace the purchase of the copyrighted work?
    • Do you (or the college) own the original work?



In most cases, linking to a work that is online will not require obtaining permission.

In the Library databases, most materials include a permalink or persistent link that can be used on a Canvas page.

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