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Copyright and Fair Use: Fair Use

Table of Contents

  • What is Fair Use?
  • What determines Fair Use?
  • Fair Use in Academia
  • Tools to Help you Determine Fair Use
  • Teach Act & Course Management Systems
Teachers in front of a computer

What is Fair Use?

Fair use is a concept embedded in U.S. law that recognizes that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright holder. (See Title 17, section 107)

What Determines Fair Use?

The following four factors are used to determine if a use is fair:

  1. The purpose of the use (eg. commercial vs. educational)*
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount of the material used (the greater the amount copied, the less likely it is fair use)
  4. The effect of use on the potential market for or value of the work

* Not all uses in an academic context are automatically considered fair use!

Fair Use in Academia

The Fair Use Doctrine is probably the most important exemption to copyright protections for educational settings, allowing many uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching and research. The complexity of fair use and its importance in academia make it imperative that every member of NNU understands how to make judgements concerning fair use.

Review these Common Scenarios to help you determine whether or not fair use is appropriate.

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use (small cover)

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has recently published (January 2012) the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Acadmeic and Research Libraries.

Tools to help you Determine Fair Use

  • Copyright Genie - This is a great, easy to use, online tool which can answer the question: "Is it covered by copyright?".  Answer a few short questions and you're given an answer. Developed and approved by the American Library Association.

  • Baruch College Interactive Guide to using Copyrighted Media in your  Course
    Getting ready to use a video or audio file or other media in your course?  Click on "LAUNCH" and go to the "Copyright Metro" tab to use the helpful matrix for determining copyright compliance.

  • Fair Use Evaluator: 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. Developed by the American Library Association, Office for Information Technology Policy.

  • Fair Use Analysis Tool:  guides users through the process of determining if a use is fair. Developed by The University of Minnesota Libraries


The TEACH Act and Course Management Systems

NNU's on-line or e-learning service technology page includes information regarding policy for using copyrighted materials. If you have questions about how to use copyrighted materials in a course management system please start here.

NNU E-learning Technology and Use of Copyrighted Materials

The TEACH ACT was put into place to update copyright laws so that they are applicable in the digital environment. The TEACH act does not replace copyright law but is an extension of that law.

These resources will help you learn more about copyright in online education.

The American Library Association's The Teach Act and Some Frequently Asked Questions covers highlights of the law.

Penn State University's  TEACH Act Frequently Asked Questions

Copyright Clearance Center provides information on using copyright materials on a course management system such as Angel.

Using-Course-Management-Systems: Guidelines and Best Practices for Copyright

Before placing items in an online course management system please review the checklist to determine if your use of items qualifies as Fair Use. Keep in mind the four factors of Fair Use:

  • Purpose
  • Nature
  • Amount
  • Effect

Fair Use Checklist