Skip to Main Content


Fair Use Factors

There's no one answer as to what constitutes "fair use" of a particular copyrighted work. The answer varies from situation to situation, and only a court can make a definitive decision.

Four factors are considered in all fair use evaluations:

  • Purpose and character of the use (educational or commercial)
  • Nature of the work (factual or creative)
  • Amount/substantiality of the work (how much of the total work and is it the "heart" of the work?)
  • Impact on market (financial loss to copyright holder)

These four factors are not meant to be exclusive and must be examined jointly.

Fair Use websites for further information

For additional Fair Use information, check these sites.

Lamar University Fair Use Checklist

Fair Use Checklist

Copyright Advisory Office

Lamar University

Theresa S. Hefner-Babb, Ed.D., Copyright Librarian


Name: ________________________________________________________________________

Institution: _____________________________________________________________________

Project: ________________________________________________________________________

Date: _________________________________________________________________________ 

Prepared by: ____________________________________________________________________ 



Favoring Fair Use Opposing Fair Use
Teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use)  Commercial activity
Research Profiting from the use
Scholarship Entertainment
Nonprofit educational institution Bad-faith behavior
Criticism Denying credit to original author
News reporting  
Transformative or productive use (changes the work for new utility)  
Restricted access (to students or other appropriate group)  


Favoring Fair Use Opposing Fair Use
Published work Unpublished work
Factual or nonfiction based Highly creative work (art, music, novels, films, plays)
Important to favored educational objectives  Fiction  


Favoring Fair Use Opposing Fair Use
Small quantity  Large portion or whole work used 
Portion used is not central or significant to entire work Portion used is central to or “heart of the to entire work 
Amount is appropriate for favored educational purpose   


Favoring Fair Use Opposing Fair Use
User owns lawfully purchased or acquired copy of original work Could replace sale of copyrighted work
One or few copies made  Significantly impairs market or potential market for copyrighted work or derivative 
No significant effect on the market or potential market for copyrighted work  Reasonably available licensing mechanism for use of the copyrighted work 
No similar product marketed by the copyright holder  Affordable permission available for using work
Lack of licensing mechanism Numerous copies made
  You made it accessible on the Web or in other public forum 
  Repeated or long-term use 

Fair Use Checklist from Columbia University Copyright Office. upd 051408.                                           

A Fair(y) Use Tale

Professor Eric Fadden of Bucknell University provides this humorous, yet informative, review of copyright principles.

Fair Use Explained

Under the “fair use” rule of copyright law, a person may make limited use of another author’s work without asking permission.

Important Notice:  Use of copyrighted materials for papers, theses, classroom presentations and other academic purposes does not mean that use is automatically fair use.  Permission may still be required.  

Here are some general Fair Use guidelines for research/teaching.

How much can I use?

  • A single chapter from a book
  • A single article from a journal issue or newspaper
  • A short story, essay, or poem from an individual work.
  • A chart, diagram, graph, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, journal, magazine, or newspaper.

Best practice for distributing copies:

  • Copies should not substitute for the purchase of books, journals, and etc.
  • Always credit the source.
  • Provide a copyright notice on the first page of the copied material (possible wording: "Notice: This material is subject to the copyright law of the United States).
  • Provide only one copy per student.
  • Copying works for multiple semesters requires permission from the copyright owner.

Best practice for Internet sources:

  • Always credit the source.
  • If you are using information on a webpage, obtain permission to upload materials or simply link to the site.

Specific Sources for Educators and Librarians:



Creative Commons License/Copyright Statement