Defining Fair Use in Education

In today’s digital age in education, many faculty have questions about what materials they can use in their classrooms and online and not be in violation of copyright.  While there are some gray areas in these matters, the doctrine of fair use is the most common criteria to consider when approaching the use of copyrighted material in an educational setting.

What is Fair Use?
Fair Use is the practice of using copyrighted material in a limited way that does not infringe on the copyright holder’s rights and takes into account these four core criteria:

The Purpose and Character of the the Use

  • Non-profit educational purposes are favored over commercial

  • For the purpose of criticism, commenting, news reporting and scholarship or research

The Nature of the Copyrighted Work

  • Using published works over unpublished works is more favorable

  • Generally avoid “first publication” material

  • Commercially published material is unlikely to be considered fair use

The Amount or Substance of the Portion Used

  • Using smaller portions of works is better than larger portions

  • Exclusive content or the “heart of the work” should be avoided

The Market Effect of the Use

  • Avoid any use of material that will negatively affect the marketability of the work

Resources on Fair Use in Education

OSU Copyright Resource Center

Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Resource Site

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