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Copyright: Fair Use

Evaluation

There's no one right answer as to what constitutes a "fair use" of a particular copyrighted work. The answer varies from situation to situation.

A good point to consider is this: Have you made a "good faith" effort to comply with the "fair use" clause of U.S. Copyright Law?

"Four factors" are considered in all fair use evaluations. They are:

  1. Purpose & character
  2. Nature of the work
  3. Amount
  4. Effect

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

 

The statute does not indicate how much weight is to be accorded each factor. Historically the courts have placed the most emphasis on "effect", while the "nature" of the copyrighted work is usually considered to be the least important factor.

For help in making a fair use evaluation, please see our "Fair Use Checklist" in the right hand box. Another excellent resource to use is the ALA's Fair Use Evaluator.

CONFU: The Conference on Fair Use

CONFU guidelines clarify the application of fair use of copyrighted works in the digital educational environment. CONFU guidelines are particularly useful for educators and students who are working on educationally related projects like video podcasting, multimedia projects utilizing sound and videos, etc.

Based on CONFU guidelines educators and students needn't get copyright permissions if they make a good faith effort to adhere to these suggested limits:

  • Motion Media: Up to 10% or 3 minutes, whichever is less, in the aggregate of a copyrighted motion media work may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as part of a multimedia project created under Section 2 of these guidelines.

  • Text Material: Up to 10% or 1000 words, whichever is less, in the aggregate of a copyrighted work consisting of text material may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as part of a multimedia project created under Section 2 of these guidelines. An entire poem of less than 250 words may be used, but no more than three poems by one poet, or five poems by different poets from any anthology may be used. For poems of greater length, 250 words may be used but no more than three excerpts by a poet, or five excerpts by different poets from a single anthology may be used.

  • Music, Lyrics, and Music Video: Up to 10%, but in no event more than 30 seconds, of the music and lyrics from an individual musical work (or in the aggregate of extracts from an individual work), whether the musical work is embodied in copies, or audio or audiovisual works, may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as a part of a multimedia project created under Section 2. Any alterations to a musical work shall not change the basic melody or the fundamental character of the work.

CONFU recommendations allow you to use small portions of multimedia works without obtaining copyright permissions.  Following CONFU guidelines you may:

  • Incorporate portions of copyrighted works when creating your own multimedia projects for educational or instructional purposes.
    • Students may incorporate "portions" of copyrighted materials for a course-specific project.
    • Students may display their own projects, use them in their E-portfolios, illustrate in a job interview or use as part of their admissions application for a different college.
    • Faculty may use their projects for teaching, distance education, remote instruction, conference presentations, presentations, or those activities that can be tied to their teaching or professional development.
  • Give attribution to the original source (i.e. cite your source!) of all copyrighted material that you use.
  • Place a copyright notice on the opening screen of the multimedia program and accompanying print material that states: "Certain materials in this multimedia presentation are included under the fair use exemption of the U.S. Copyright Law and are restricted from further use."
  • Fair use exemptions of the copyrighted materials expires at the end of two years. To use the multimedia project beyond two years requires the appropriate copyright permissions. 

    See also CONFU: The Conference on Fair Use and the Guidelines Tab.

    Explained

    The current copyright law  gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute their work. One exception to this exclusive right is called "the fair use exception."

    The fair use exception permits the reproduction of a small portion of a copyrighted work without the copyright owner's permission, but only under very limited circumstances.

    The purpose is to allow students, scholars, and critics the right to reference a copyrighted work in their own scholarship, teaching, and critiques.

    A Fair Use Evaluator

    Making a Fair Use evaluation:

    There is no one right answer as to what constitutes a "fair use" of a particular copyrighted work, as each situation and work must be evaluated according to fair use guidelines and intentions of the use.

    A good point to consider is this: Have you made a "good faith" effort to comply with the "fair use" clause of U.S. Copyright Law?

    "Four factors" are considered in all fair use evaluations. They are:

    1. Purpose & character
    2. Nature of the work
    3. Amount
    4. Effect

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

    The statute does not indicate how much weight is to be accorded each factor. Historically the courts have placed the most emphasis on "effect", while the "nature" of the copyrighted work is usually considered to be the least important factor.

    For help in making a fair use evaluation, please see the "Fair Use Checklist" below. Another excellent resource to use is the ALA's Fair Use Evaluator.