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Copyright and Fair Use

Information on copyright law, fair use, public domain, and Creative Commons


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 according to Title 17, chapter 1, section 107 [PDF] (opens in a new window).


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

  1. The purpose of the use (eg. commercial vs. educational)*
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount of the material used (the greater the amount copied, the less likely it is fair use)
  4. The effect of use on the potential market for or value of the work

* Not all uses in an academic context are automatically considered fair use!


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 RCC understands how to make judgments concerning fair use.

Review the Common Copyright Scenarios on the left menu to help you determine whether or not fair use is appropriate.

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