Guide to Using Hekman Library Online   |   Library Operational Plans

Fair Use

A critical feature of copyright law is fair use. It can be defined as a flexible user’s right that allows the use of copyrighted works without permission.

Fair Use Provision factors:

  1. Purpose and character of the use.
  2. Nature of the work – factual or creative? Published or unpublished? (Not weighted as heavily as the other factors in fair use judgments in the courts)
  3. Amount and substantiality. This is situation-specific and flexible; a single use may be for as long as it reproduces what is reasonable to serve the purpose.
  4. Effect on the potential market for, or value of, the work.

“Principle: It is fair use to make appropriately tailored course-related content available to enrolled students via digital network,” (ARL, Code of Best Practices…, p. 14).


  • Brief excerpt only
  • Available for duration of course
  • Available only to eligible students and instructor(s)
  • Connection between pedagogical purpose and type/amount of content
  • Full attribution in a form satisfactory to scholars in the field

“While fair use is absolutely appropriate to support the heightened demands presented by this emergency, [COVID-19 crisis], campuses will need to investigate and adopt solutions tailored for the long-term.” (“Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists: Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research,” March 13, 2020, p. 3).