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Copyright and Fair Use

What is fair use?

Fair use is "a legal doctrine that portions of copyrighted materials may be used without permission of the copyright owner provided the use is fair and reasonable, does not substantially impair the value of the materials, and does not curtail the profits reasonably expected by the owner." (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

How is fair use determined?

"In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include-

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors."  (U.S. Code 17  107)

Each institution has the responsibility to set their own fair use guidelines based on these factors.  See the next section for Webster University's policy, and Webster's Fair Use by Use page for specific guidelines on many classroom and research cases.

Webster University's fair use policy

Webster University complies with all applicable laws and regulations regarding intellectual property. Webster is committed to the full exercise of the rights accorded to users of copyrighted works under the fair use provision of federal copyright law.

It therefore is the policy of Webster University to facilitate the knowledgeable and good faith exercise of full fair use rights by faculty, staff, librarians, and students, in support of the educational purposes of the University including teaching, research, service activities, and related activities. To that end, Webster University will:

  1. endeavor to inform and educate its faculty, staff, librarians, and students about copyright and the application of fair use provisions;
  2. develop and make available through the office of Academic Affairs, the Faculty Development Center, and other appropriate units, information and effective resources concerning fair use and intellectual property laws generally and the application of fair use in specific situations; and
  3. avoid, whenever possible, adopting policies, supporting practices or entering into contractual agreements that would restrict fair use rights or hinder the fair use of copyrighted works for educational purposes.

Approved by Faculty Assembly and Academic Affairs Deans' Council, February 2004