Welcome to the Copyright Fair Use Guide!

What's Copyright?

Copyright is the lawful right of an author, artist, composer or other creator to control the use of his or her work by others in a limited time. A copyrighted work may not be duplicated, disseminated, or appropriated by others without the creator's permission.

A major limitation on copyright is that copyright protects only the original expression of ideas, and not the underlying ideas themselves. Copyright is a form of intellectual property, applicable to certain forms of creative work.

Copyright gives creators of an original piece of work some control over how their works should be used, which is not only fair but necessary for them to make a living from their talent and efforts.

When they have the means to make a living from their work, then they can continue to invest their time, and, in the case of publishers, their money into the production of new work.

By assigning the exclusive right to copy and distribute original works to creators, copyright laws ensure that the holders of the copyright can earn income from their work.

Authors may either sell, rent or license their own works or give permission to others to use them and collect royalties. Such income allows creators to continue their activities and produce new works.

Copyright protection exists for “original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression, which can be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated".

To be “fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” the work must be recorded in some physical medium, such as on paper or audio tape. Works of authorship include the following:

  • literary works;
  • musical works, including accompanying words;
  • dramatic works, including accompanying music;
  • pantomimes and choreographic works;
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  • sound recordings;
  • architectural works.


For more info about Copyright and libraries, please visit the American Libraries Association

The law gives the owner of copyright the following exclusive rights:

  • To reproduce the work (i.e. to make copies);
  • To prepare derivative works (i.e. to make a movie from a book or to translate a work into another language);
  • To distribute copies publicly;
  • To perform the work publicly (i.e. a play or movie);
  • To display the work publicly; and In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

The owner of the copyright may transfer all or part of these rights to others. Subject to some exceptions described in this guide (including fair use), if a person exercises any of these rights in another’s work without permission, the person may be liable for copyright infringement.

Scope of Copyright

All rights reserved

Copyright may apply to a wide range of creative, intellectual, or artistic works. Specifics vary by jurisdiction, but these can include poems, theses, plays and other literary works, motion pictures, choreography, musical compositions, sound recordings, paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, computer software, radio and television broadcasts, and industrial designs.

Graphic designs and industrial designs may have separate or overlapping laws applied to them in some jurisdictions. Copyright does not cover ideas and information themselves, only the form or manner in which they are expressed.

In many jurisdictions, copyright law makes exceptions to these restrictions when the work is copied for the purpose of commentary or other related uses (See fair use).

Copyright laws are standardized somewhat through international conventions such as the Berne Convention and Universal Copyright Convention.

These multilateral treaties have been ratified by nearly all countries, and international organizations such as the European Union or World Trade Organization require their member states to comply with them.

Authors' rights

The author here means creator, composer, artist, sculptor, architects... etc. whose creativity led to the protected work being created. Authors’ rights are a part of copyright law.

Authors’ rights have two distinct components:

  • The economic rights in the work: Property right which is limited in time and which may be transferred by the author to other people in the same way as any other property. They are intended to allow the author or their holder to profit financially from his or her creation, and include the right to authorize the reproduction of the work in any form.
  • The moral rights of the author:The protection of the moral rights of an author is based on the view that a creative work is in some way an expression of the author’s personality. The moral rights are therefore personal to the author, and cannot be transferred to another person except by testament when the author dies.

The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) consists of three major library associations — the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries. These three associations collectively represent over 300,000 information professionals and thousands of libraries of all kinds throughout the United States and Canada. These three associations cooperate in the LCA to address copyright issues that affect libraries and their users.

Exceptions to copyright

There are some exceptions to what copyright will protect. Copyright will not protect:

  • Names of products
  • Names of businesses, organizations, or groups
  • Pseudonyms of individuals
  • Titles of works
  • Catchwords, catchphrases, mottoes, slogans, or short advertising expressions
  • Listings of ingredients in recipes, labels, and formulas, though the directions can be copyrighted

How to get copyright

Copyright protection begins as soon as a work is created. Copyright is secured automatically when a work is "fixed in a tangible medium of expression."

This means that the work must exist in some physical form for at least some period of time, no matter how brief.

Copyright does not protect ideas that are not expressed in tangible form. Written works, photographs, and computer files are all examples of tangible media.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a not-for-profit organization that provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved."

Creative Commons helps you legally share your knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world.

What is Fair Use?

Fair Use is a legal doctrine that portions of copyrighted materials may be used without permission of the copyright owner provided the use is fair and reasonable, does not substantially impair the value of the materials, and does not curtail the profits reasonably expected by the owner.

It allows one to use and build upon prior works in a manner that does not unfairly deprive prior copyright owners of the right to control and benefit from their works.

Fair use is a copyright principle based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary, criticism and news reporting.

Fair Use and File Sharing

It is imperative to understand the difference between legal downloads and illegal file sharing. In the peer-to-peer file sharing context, downloading or uploading substantial parts of a copyrighted work without authority constitutes an infringement.

Although there are exceptions under the law that allow copying or distribution of protected works, the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) software programs to download or upload copyrighted music and movies without permission of the copyright owner would virtually never qualify for an exception. Criminal and civil penalties may result from copyright violation.

Fair Use - Text and Data Mining

The transformative nature of computer based analytical processes such as text mining, web mining and data mining has led many to form the view that such uses would be protected under fair use.

Fair Use on the Internet

In today’s world, internet is full of works protected by copyright law. The fair use doctrine allows you to use those works while putting in mind the four factors of fair use. Use only a small porting of the work, do not use them for commercial purposes.

The Four Factors of Fair Use

To determine whether a use of copyrighted work is or is not a fair use, you need to apply all four factors of fair use.

Factor 1: The purpose and character of your use

The fair use statute itself indicates that nonprofit educational purposes are generally favored over commercial uses. The statute explicitly lists several purposes especially appropriate for fair use, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.

Fair use is more likely to be found when the copyrighted work is “transformed” into something new or of new utility or meaning, such as quotations incorporated into a paper, or perhaps pieces of a work mixed into a multimedia product for your own teaching needs or included in commentary or criticism of the original.


  • Nonprofit educational use
  • Face-to-face teaching
  • Criticism and comment
  • Scholarship and research
  • News reporting
Factor 2: The nature of the copyrighted work

This factor centers on the work being used, and the law allows for a wider or narrower scope of fair use, depending on the characteristics or attributes of the work.

This factor will generally weigh in favor of fair use if the work to be used is factual in nature (scholarly, technical, scientific, etc.), as opposed to works involving more creative expression, such as plays, poems, fictional works, photographs, paintings, and so on.

Fair use does not apply to some works, such as standardized tests, workbooks, and works that are meant to be consumed. The case for fair use becomes even stronger when there are only a few ways to express the ideas or facts contained in a factual work.

The line between unprotected “facts and ideas” on the one hand and protected “expression” on the other, is often difficult to draw. If there is only one way or very few ways to express a fact or an idea, the expression is said to have merged into the fact/idea, and there is no copyright protection for the expression.

Fair use applies to unpublished works as it does to published works, but the author's rights of first publication may be a factor weighing against fair use if a work is unpublished.


  • Digital or analog
  • Fiction or non-fiction
  • Audio-visual formats including sound recordings
  • Software
  • Dramatic or non-dramatic
  • Performance or display
  • Published or unpublished
  • Published before or after 1976
  • Sculpture
  • Picture
Factor 3: The amount and substantiality of the portion taken

Although the law does not set exact quantity limits, generally the more you use, the less likely you are within fair use. The “amount” used is usually evaluated relative to the length of the entire original and in light of the amount needed to serve a proper objective.

However, sometimes the exact “original” is not always obvious. A book chapter might be a relatively small portion of the book, but the same content might be published elsewhere as an article or essay and be considered the entire work in that context. The “amount” of a work is also measured in qualitative terms.


  • Quantatative: a small portion
  • Qualitative: not the "heart of the work"
Factor 4: The effect of the use upon the potential market

Another important fair use factor is whether your use deprives the copyright owner of income or undermines a new or potential market for the copyrighted work.

Depriving a copyright owner of income is very likely to trigger a lawsuit. This is true even if you are not competing directly with the original work.


  • No significant effect on the market for the copyrighted work
  • No significant effect on the potential market for the copyrighted work
  • No similar product marketed
  • Licensing or permission mechanism is absent

Useful Links

Fair Use Definition

Fair Use Doctrine

Fair Use Explained

Fair Use Week

U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index.

The goal of the Index is to make the principles and application of fair use more accessible and understandable to the public by presenting a searchable database of court opinions, including by category and type of use (e.g., music, internet/digitization, parody).

U.S. Copyrighted Works that have Expired into the Public Domain.

A chart showing the current year, and the status of various copyrighted works and when they become part of the the Public Domain., with explanatory notes.

Stanford Copyright & Fair Use Website.

The Stanford Copyright & Fair Use site includes primary case law, statutes, regulations, as well as current feeds of newly filed copyright lawsuits, pending legislation, regulations, copyright office news, scholarly articles, blog and twitter feeds from practicing attorneys and law professors. Its emphasis is on copyright issues especially relevant to the education and library community, including examples of fair use and policies. Useful copyright charts and tools are continually added to help users evaluate copyright status and best practices.

Basic Copyright Principles - Stanford University.

A collection of informational sheets to remind the university community of the applicatbility of copyright law at academic institutions like Stanford. Includes: basic copyright principles, fair use doctrine, library copyright considerations, obtaining permissions, internet and electronic medium concerns, DMCA, and additional resources.

Learn About Copyright - Copyright Clearance Center.

A resource for educational information about the subject of copyright for the U.S. and around the world. Includes courses, programs, videos, articles, and papers.

Copyright Tips for Programming Librarians: Using Images in Programming Materials.

Everyone can be a novice graphic artist using computer technologies to capture appealing designs, images, and photos found on the Internet for use in presentations, Web sites, and promotional materials. Some may pause and wonder, “Is this a copyright problem?” The answer, of course, is “it depends.” There are no hard and fast rules in the copyright law to tell us whether our use of an image is lawful. All we can be sure of is that the copyright law protects exclusive rights of creators or rights holders except when it is considered fair or reasonable for a user to exercise an exclusive right. It is a matter of judgment. Given how you want to use an image and why you want to use it balanced against the economic interests of rights holders is the issue of concern.

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare.

This document is a code of best practices designed to help those preparing OpenCourseWare (OCW) to interpret and apply fair use under United States copyright law.

Fair Use Evaluator

Helps you determine if the use of a protected work constitutes “fair use.” Helps users collect, organize, and document the information they may need to support a fair use claim, and provides a time-stamped PDF document for the users’ records.


The purpose of this document is to ensure that all members of the GUST Community adhere to requirements relating to the copying, communication or performance of copyrighted material; and that the Community members make fair and legal use of copyrighted material in their study, research, and teaching activities.

Application & Compliance

  • This policy applies to all GUST Community members (staff, students, faculty, alumni, and external users).
  • It also applies to any person/s participating in authorized GUST business or activities (visitors, part time staff, service providers or contractors).
  • All GUST Community members are expected to comply with the Copyright Policy, as the Library will bear no responsibility related to those who do not adhere to the terms mentioned herein.


This policy does not apply to any overseas operations; as the copyright laws in the concerned territory would then apply.

Fair Use Policy

Using copyrighted material in assessments and classwork (including essays, assignments and presentations), constitutes as " research and study" purposes, which is permitted under the Copyright Act, provided that the following Fair Use requirements are understood and satisfied:

Fair Use of copying text from the Internet or book chapters from textbooks

  • Material on the Internet is protected by copyright and is subject to copyright law.
  • Including the source information and acknowledging the creator of the work is a legal requirement under the moral rights clause of the Copyright Act. Failure to cite the source of an original work may lead to allegations of plagiarism and copyright infringement.
  • Before downloading or printing any copyrighted material, always check the terms of use section of the website or source.
  • Usually, you are permitted to download or print the material for personal use for research and study purposes.
  • If the terms of use are not specified, as per the Copyright Act, you may copy a reasonable portion, that is, one chapter or 10% of the pages.
  • If the work is not paginated, you may copy 10% of the words in the document.

Fair Use of copying other types of materials

Other types of copyrighted material may consist of diagrams, illustrations, maps, clips from movies or TV, sound recordings, etc. The amount you may copy of these materials is not specified in the Copyright Act.

There are five factors to consider, and then you should decide if your usage constitutes as fair use:

  • The purpose and character of your usage
  • The nature of the material
  • The possibility of obtaining the material commercially
  • The effect of the usage upon the potential market for the material
  • The amount copied in relation to the whole of the source material

You may copy the material, under the research or study exception in the Copyright Act, provided that you:

  • Observe the limits of copying as per those outlined above
  • Use the copied material for research or study purposes only
  • Do not use the copied material for other purposes, such as publication or performance
  • Acknowledge the original creator and cite the source of the works

Under fair use, you usually cannot:

  • Make additional copies of copyright material to share with others
  • Upload or post the copyrighted work to blogs, websites or social media without citing the source: this is considered to be a republication of the original work, which is the exclusive right of the copyright owner. It is also considered to be no longer copying for research or study purposes.
  • If you need to share copyrighted material with others (eg: a class, project group or team), we recommend:
    • Sharing the source URL or DOI
    • Sharing the citation or reference information
    • Obtaining permission from the copyright owner to share the works

Publish Your Work

Before publishing your work, you will need to consider the issue of obtaining permission for any copyright material that you have used in your work. Generally, you do not need to obtain permission if you paraphrase or summarize someone else’s work, unless you follow the structure of the original work closely. However, you will still need to acknowledge the source of the work in the form of a citation and in your reference list.

If your work is to be published by an international publisher:

  • The copyright legislation in the country of publication will determine the permission you have to obtain.
  • Some UK and US publishers allow you to quote a minimum number of words from a publication (often between 400-500 words) before they require you to obtain permission.
  • Most publishers require you to obtain permission to use photographs, images, diagrams or charts from copyright works.
  • Be guided by your publisher – visit their website or ask your editor for advice.
  • Obtaining permission or clearances to use material in publications is time consuming, so it’s worth noting these few points now, as they will save you time later.
  • Keep accurate citations – you’ll then be ready to go when you need to contact publishers.
  • Remember, you don’t need permission to use out of copyright works. If you have a choice, use works which no longer fall under copyright.
  • Look for works where the copyright owner has given a license for non-commercial use, such as items published under a Creative Commons license.
  • Check the terms of use for websites, as the owners may give you a license to re-use material for non-commercial purposes.


The contents of this policy is not intended to constitute, and receipt of it does not constitute, a contract for legal advice or establishment of a legal relationship. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information in this communication is accurate, A.M.R Library does not accept responsibility for any action or inaction, legal or otherwise, based on the information contained in this document.