Fair Use

Fair Use

Fair use is one of the trickiest aspects of copyright law. Essentially, it is the exception to rule that copyright holders have the sole right to determine how their works are used. Some of the uses that fall under the fair use doctrine include parody, educational use, and criticism. For example, a quote from a written work may be used in a review or scholarly paper without the consent of the copyright holder.

The rules for what constitutes fair use are vague and open to interpretation; there are no specific limits on the number of words or pages that may be quoted. There are, however, some best practice guidelines. For example, it is best to use as little of a work as possible, and only what is absolutely necessary. The Center for Social Media has published The Code of Best Practices for Academic and Research Librarieswhich provides some useful guidelines for librarians trying to determine what constitutes fair use. Also keep in mind that only non-commercial uses fall under the fair use doctrine.

When it comes to images and music, it is even more difficult to determine what is fair use and what is copyright infringement. When in doubt, seek permission from the copyright holder before reproducing his or her work.