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Copyright: Fair Use

A basic guide to Copyright Laws.

What is Fair Use

Reproduction of any copyrighted material must fall within the limits set under the “Fair Use” guidelines.   “Fair Use” allows for a portion of a work to be used without permission from the author for purposes of teaching, research, news reporting, scholarship, and/or criticism.  According to Title 17 of the U.S. code, “Fair Use” is determined based on:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit 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. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use.


The portion of a work that is subject to fair use guidelines varies depending on the type or media.  These limitations are as follows:

Media Type

Portion Covered under Fair Use


10% or 3 minutes, whichever is shorter


10% or 1000 words, whichever is shorter*

*This does not allow for the copying of an entire chapter of a work if it falls within these guidelines


10% or 30 seconds, whichever is shorter

Illustrations, Photos,

And Graphics

5 images from on artist/photographer, or

10% or 15 images from a published work, whichever is shorter


10% or 2500 fields, whichever is shorter

Copying of consumable materials is never permitted.  Examples of consumable materials are workbooks, tests, answer sheets.

Copying and distribution of copyrighted multimedia (CD-ROMs, DVDs, and VHS) is never permitted. 

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CopyRight!: Academic permission. (2002). Danvers, MA: Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.

U.S. Copyright Office (2009 May). Fair use. Retrieved from Copyright Web site:

Consortium of Education Affiliates Libraries