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Copyright and Fair Use for Faculty

Background of copyright and fair use for educators, with an emphasis on FAQs for using library and other resources in compliance with copyright law. This site is not legal advice, and the authors are not legal counsel to the university.

Fair Use in Academia

Fair use is a concept in U.S. copyright law that recognizes that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright holder (Title 17, section 107). It provides a framework of four balancing factors to analyze whether a copyrighted item can be used for education and research purposes without incurring a copyright infringement or needing to obtain permission.

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 necessary for the Adelphi community to understand the concept.

In general, an instructor may make a copy of a book chapter, a journal, a newspaper article, or a copy of a graph, chart or picture from any of the material discussed and it is generally considered Fair Use. Multiple copies for classroom use may be made by the instructor provided the copying meets the test of brevity, spontaneity, cumulative effect and each copy includes the copyright notice.

Uses not Permitted

  • Copying in lieu of purchase
  • Using material in full without permission from the publisher or creator
  • Copying  to replace, create, or substitute for a compilation of collective works or anthologies

The Association of Research Libraries, in partnership with the Center for Social Media and the Washington College of Law at American University, developed the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries in 2012 to support the research and academic library community in determining Fair Use.



Tools to help you Determine Fair Use


Four Factors

Favorable Use

Unfavorable use

1. Purpose and Character

Non-profit, teaching, research, scholarship

Commercial use and for profit, entertainment, verbatim copying

2.   Nature of the copyrighted Work

Factual, published work, clear educational objectives related to the use of work

Unpublished work such as creative work, fiction

3.  Amount & Substantiality of work  used

Small amount in relation to whole work, the portion used is not considered the essence of the work.

Large portion used, central, significant, and considered the heart of the work

4.  Impact on the Potential Market

Work lawfully acquired, reasonable attempts made to obtain permission, no significant impact on the market restricted access to the work.

Significantly affects value of the copyrighted work in the market, repeated long term use, work made available on the web, permissions are available

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

Framework for Analyzing Copyright Problems


According to Kevin Smith, M.L.S., J.D., Lisa A. Macklin, J.D.,M.L.S. and Anne Gilliland, JD, MLS there are five basic questions, incorporating Fair Use,  that need to be answered to determine which parts of copyright law apply to a specific question.  These questions are outlined in their  Framework Questions.