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Copyright & Fair Use: Fair Use

Fair Use Checklist

Compliance with the Duquesne University Copyright Policy requires that all University constituents will complete a Fair Use Checklist when using copyrighted materials in teaching, research, or publication.

Best Practices

What is Fair Use?

In U.S. Copyright law, the doctrine of fair use is one of the few limitations on the exclusive right of the copyright owner to reproduce (or authorize others to reproduce) work.  Fair use doctrine is of considerable importance to the understanding and practical application of copyright in an educational or academic context, though it is by no means limited to this context.  Essentially, the idea of fair use is grounded in the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism.

It is important to know that the rules of fair use are not set in stone; fair use doctrine developed over the years through court rulings, and was codified in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Code.  The law identifies four factors to be considered in determining fair use:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

It is important to note that applying these factors is not a science.  Copyright law, as other areas of the law, is open to interpretation and is continually being refined through court decisions that create legal precedent.

Further Reading

Favoring Fair Use

Quoting or closely paraphrasing materials is usually considered fair use of copyrighted material within the following contexts:

  • criticism or comment
  • news reporting
  • research and scholarship
  • non-profit educational uses
  • parody

Additionally, non-commercial use (not motivated by financial gain) often weighs in favor of fair use.  Sometimes, a use that is of benefit to the public, can also be considered as fair use. 

Use Duquesne's Fair Use Checklist to help you determine your grounds for fair use.

Page Authors

Sara Grozanick, Alyson Pope, Maureen Diana Sasso