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Exploring Fair Use

Exploring Fair Use



Learners will gain a basic understanding of Fair use as a tenet of Copyright Law, and should be able to explain the following.
  • What fair use is
  • What types of usage is acceptable under fair use
  • How fair use is defined
  • The limits of fair use and how those limits are determined


This tutorial is designed to help learners further explore how copyright works and why it exists and, here specifically, what fair use is and how it pertains to copyright law. The resources presented here are varied to provide the learner with an option to explore the topic through his or her preferred mode of learning.
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So, what happens when you're blogging, or writing a letter to the editor about a particular segment of a copyrighted text?  In order to put your statement in context so your reader can understand it you'll need to quote the text by providing an excerpt right?  Under copyright you cannot reproduce protected works. So what gives?  This, in part, is where fair use comes in.

It would be ridiculous to assume that any copyright protected text cannot be reproduced in full or in part for any reason.  What would be the use in that? If anyone who wanted to use that text was forced to purchase the text or if someone wanted to comment on a text it would be unrealistic to force people to seek out permission or pay for every reproduction, chapter excerpt, or sentence.  For this reason there are some instances were the use of copyright protected material may be fairly used ("Fair Use") without having to gain permission or pay for the rights to use the content.

This tutorial is designed to help you gain a basic understanding of "Fair Use," a major tenet of Copyright Law. By the time you complete your exploration here you should be able to explain the following.
  • What fair use is
  • What types of usage is acceptable under fair use
  • How fair use is defined
  • The limits of fair use and how those limits are determined


Fair Use Basics Presentation

Fair Use Overview From Standford University

Stanford University offers a wonderful set of resources related to copyright law and protection.  Here is their section on fair use where you should find just about everything you need to know.

Chapter 9 - Fair Use

Source: Stanford University

Copyright and Primary Sources (Library of Congress)

Explore this page from the Library of Congress.  It provides a brief overview of copyright law and then explains fair use and includes a number of examples especially related to educational uses of protected content.

Copyright and Primary Sources from the Library of Congress

Source: Library of Congress

Fair Use in Online Video

One common practice today is the use of media including video, images, music and sound to create new works. This practice is called remixing and is widespread in our culture today. You cannot go to Youtube and not run into remixed media. From time to time these works are removed for copyright violation. There is a fine line between fair and unfair use. The Center for Social Media has created a video that illustrates the widespread remixing of media and discusses the limits of fair use.

OVER AND ABOVE: Copyright, Public Domain, & Fair Use - The Comic Book!!

Below is a comic book created by Duke University's Center for the Study of Public Domain. It is a great and creative approach to communicating the laws and ideas behind copyright, fair use and public domain.