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E. H. Butler Library, Buffalo State, The State University of New York

E. H. Butler Library Copyright and Fair Use Policy: Fair Use

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What is Fair Use?

A provision for fair use is found in the Copyright Act at Section 107. Under the fair use provision, a reproduction of someone else's copyright-protected work is likely to be considered fair if it is used for one of the following purposes: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research. If the reproduction is for one of these purposes, a determination as to whether the reproduction is fair use must be made based upon four factors:

  1. The purpose and character of use (principally, whether for commercial or nonprofit educational use);
  2. The nature of the copyright-protected work;
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used; and
  4. The effect of the use being evaluated upon the potential market for or value of the copyright-protected work.

Fair use is an ambiguous concept and the law does not state exactly what uses of a copyrighted work will be considered fair uses under the law and may therefore be used without obtaining permission. As such, individuals who are not lawyers may often need to be interpreters of the law in everyday circumstances, and answers as to how much reproduction may be considered fair use often remain unclear. The bottom line is that fair use requires a very circumstance-specific analysis as to whether a particular use or reuse of a work may indeed be considered fair use.

To avoid confusion and minimize the risk of copyright infringement, XYZ interprets the following situations as fair use:

  • Quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work for illustration or clarification of the author's observations.
  • Reproduction of material for classroom use where the reproduction is unexpected and spontaneous – for example, where an article in the morning's paper is directly relevant to that day's class topic. This would generally cover one time use in only one semester.
  • Use in a parody of short portions of the work itself.
  • A summary of an address or article, which may include quotations of short passages of the copyright-protected work.

If your use does not meet the above criteria and the work is protected by copyright, you probably need to obtain permission to use the work from the copyright holder or its agent.

Fair Use Evaluator

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E. H. Butler Library, SUNY Buffalo State
1300 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222
Phone: (716) 878 6300
Fax: (716) 878-3134