Skip to main content

Two Minute Tips for Education Students: #16 What is Fair Use?

Collection of short tutorials and help screens designed for Purdue's College of Education students and faculty.

Definition of Fair Use

What is Fair Use?
“Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.” - US Copyright Office

“Fair use is a right, fair use is vitally important, fair use is for everyone, and fair uses are everywhere.” - Fair Use Week’s Fair Use Fundamentals (infographic).

Links to tools for users about Fair Use


Tools/Resources for Users

Fair Use Analysis Summary Sheet (Purdue list developed by Donna Ferulla)

Fair Use

Fair use is one of the exceptions in copyright which allows use of copyrighted materials without obtaining permission as long as the use can be considered fair. There is a four-factor analysis which must be applied to each use to determine whether the use is fair. Each factor is given equal weight. The goal is to achieve a balance between the rights of the copyright holder with the rights of the public. Fair use is also technologically neutral so the same analysis may be applied to any medium.

It is important that the four factors be understood and applied diligently. Should someone claim that their copyright has been infringed, the court can reduce the amount of money damages if the alleged infringer can show that they understood the fair use analysis and made a good faith determination that their use was fair.



Fair use 4 factors favor fair use
More than likely fair use 3 factors favor fair use
May be fair use 2 to 2 tie. You have to assess the risk
Not fair use 1 factor favors fair use


First Factor: Purpose and Character

Second Factor: Nature of WorkSecond Factor: Nature of Work

Third Factor: Amount

Fourth Factor: Market Effect


Judy Nixon's picture
Judy Nixon
HSSE Library 253
Stewart Center

Tools for Librarians on Fair Use

Tools/Resources for Librarians