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Hunter Library
Research Guides
Western Carolina University

Copyright Resources

What is fair use?

Fair use is a concept embedded in U.S. law that recognizes that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright holder. 

The Fair Use Doctrine is probably the most important exemption to copyright protections for educational settings, allowing many uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching and research. The complexity of fair use and its importance in academia make it imperative that every member of Western Carolina University understands how to make judgements concerning fair use.

What are the four factors of fair use?

The following four factors are used to determine if a use is fair:‚Äč

  1. The purpose and character of the use

Is your intended use of the material commercial or educational? Is your intended use of the material transformative? Please note, not all educational uses are automatically considered fair use!

  1. The nature of the copyrighted work

Is the work factual or fictional? Is the work published or unpublished?

  1. The amount and substantiality of the portion taken

Is the portion taken small in comparison to the overall size of the work? Does the portion taken represent the "heart" of the work?

  1. The effect on the market for the work

Does the intended use deprive the copyright owner of income? Does the intended use harm a potential market for the copyrighted work?

What are some common fair use questions in an academic setting?

Fantastic question! The scenarios linked below are intended to help faculty and students evaluate fair use. These scenarios are illustrative and not exhaustive. The examples deal with situations involving:


Please note that fair use analysis must be examined on a case-by-case basis. If you have any questions at all about doing a fair use analysis, please contact Scottie Kapel, skapel@wcu.edu.