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Scholarly Communication - Open Access

What is Fair Use?

Fair Use is, according to Stanford University Libraries' information on fair use, "any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and "transformative" purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner." 

There are four factors in determining Fair Use:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. 


Helpful Tips for Fair Use

Because fair use is an interpretive aspect of copyright law, these links can help assist in determining what is fair use.

Distance Edcuation

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act, or TEACH Act: Allows the performance and display of copyrighted works for online distance education purposes, which only applies to performances of nondramatic literary works or musical works in their entirety and limited portions of other works, provided:

  • The instructor is the one who decides to use the work; and
  • A lawfully acquired copy of the work is used; and
  • The work is relevant to the course; and
  • Access is limited to students enrolled in the course; and
  • Authorized users do not distribute the work to others; and
  • The work is taken down at the end of the semester; and
  • No one interferes with technological measures used by copyright owners of the work to prevent such retention or unauthorized further dissemination.

Instructors of University courses may transmit entire musical works, but may not transmit entire dramatic works (operas, plays).

Suggestions for Faculty and Students

Here are some suggestions for faculty and students about copyright from the University of Maryland.

For Teaching Faculty:

1) Use articles and materials to which the University has electronic licensing rights.

2) Use works in the public domain.

3) Create and use your own works.

4) Using the four factors of fair use, conduct individual fair use analyses for every work you wish to reproduce and distribute to a class and record your analysis.

5) Obtain permission from copyright owners.

For Students:

1) Copy only so much of a work as you need to complete your academic project.

2) Limit distribution to the class and professor.


This research guide is general information. The guide does not provide legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel. 

Anthony Paganelli's picture
Anthony Paganelli
Anthony Paganelli
Library Instructor
(270) 745-6079
(270) 745-6079