Fair Use in Teaching and Research

Educators frequently have questions about the use of copyrighted materials for teaching and research. The 1976 Copyright Act provides exceptions to the normal rights of copyright holders when materials are used for educational purposes. Two provisions of the copyright statute are of particular importance to teachers and researchers: 

  • a provision that codifies the fair use doctrine, allowing limited duplication of copyrighted works without the permission of the owner for teaching and research purposes
  • a provision that establishes special exemptions for the reproduction of copyrighted works by libraries and archives

The fair use doctrine allows reproduction and other uses of copyrighted works under certain conditions:

  • criticism
  • comment
  • news reporting
  • teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use)
  • scholarship or research for educational and research purposes.


Four Factors of Fair Use

The following factors are used to evaluate whether a particular use of copyrighted material is considered fair use:

  • purpose and character of the use
    - commercial or educational purposes? (educational use is favored, but not all educational uses are considered fair use)
  • nature of the copyrighted work
    - creative or factual? (factual works are more likely to be considered fair use than creative works like musical compositions)
  • amount and significance of the portion used relative to the entire work
    -smaller, less essential portions of a work are more likely to be considered fair use
  • impact on the potential market or value of the copyrighted work
    -uses that have little or no financial impact on the market are more likely to be considered fair use

Fair Use law is purposely broad and flexible. The four fair use factors must be thoughtfully weighed and applied to each individual situation to ensure proper use of materials. These Fair Use Tools may help you in the evaluation process. When in doubt, it is advisable to obtain permission from the copyright owner.

ARL Code of Best Practices in Fair Use

UC Policies on Photocopying and Off-Air Recording

Policy and Guidelines on the Reproduction of Copyrighted Materials for Educational Purposes
Provides information on the appropriate use of photocopied materials in the classroom and for research.
Policy for Off-Air Recording of Broadcast Programming for Educational Purposes
Provides explicit guidance for recording television broadcasts, including retention, duplication, and extended use.

Authors and publishers have developed their own set of fair use guidelines which reflect a conservative interpretation of the law. However, these standards have not been formally adopted by the courts and do not have the weight of the law. UC policies are more permissive than those developed by author-publisher organizations.


Fair Use Outside the Classroom

There are no guidelines for fair use of copyrighted materials outside of the classroom. Use the above stated four factors of fair use and contact the UC Office of Technology Transfer as needed for additional guidance.


Additional Information on Fair Use & Copyright

United States Copyright Office

UC Copyright

Stanford University, Copyright & Fair Use

Mary Minow, Library Digitization Projects and Copyright: Fair Use and Salami


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