Fair Use Checklist

According to Copyright.gov, “Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.” It can be a daunting task to figure out what is and is not considered fair use.

To help with this, the Bellevue University Library introduced a new copyright tool, the Fair Use Checklist. This interactive checklist will help determine whether something opposes or favors fair use.

The checklist is divided into four sections: purpose, nature of source, amount of source used, and the effect on the market of the original work.

Purpose: This section deals with the use of the source work. If used in an educational, non-profit, or transformative context, it is more likely to favor fair use.

Nature of Source: This section involves the publication status and level of creativity of the source. Published or factual source are more likely to be fair use.

Amount Used from Source: The higher percentage of the original source used, the less likely it is that it favors fair use.

Effect on Market of Original Work: Will the use take away sales from the original source’s owner? If yes, then the use is not likely to be fair.

While going through these four sections, the user is given a number of choices to select which may affect whether fair use applies or not. The user can select all factors that apply to the scenario, and the checklist will explain whether these factors favor or opposes fair use, as well as give an explanation why.

The tool is not meant to be a definitive or legal authority on fair use, but can help provide context and understanding as to what falls within the boundaries of fair use in U.S. Copyright Law.

Originally posted in the Freeman/Lozier Library’s quarterly newsletter, More Than BooksV. 23 No. 1, Winter 2019.

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