Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Copyright Guide: Fair Use?

Fair Use

Fair Use is a provision of Copyright Law that allows Academic Insitutions to use with reason works otherwise protected by Copyright Law. 

Note: Fairuse or just the fact of using an copyrighted work at a University doesn't necessarily mean a free for all! 

Columbia University and Nolo have developed a concise guide to FairUse:

Fair use can allow us to clip, quote, scan, share, and make many other common uses of protected works. But not everything is within fair use. The Checklist in this guide can be helpful for considering if your usage of a work falls into Fair Use but it is good to know that Fair use depends on a reasoned and balanced application of four factors

  • the purpose of the use; for example, academic purposes is generally acceptabe.
  • the nature of the work used; Factual or informational is often considered more acceptable than creative works
  • the amount used; in general less than 10% of a book, a brief film clip, or a single article from a general issue is acceptable, 
  • the effect of the use on the market for the original. this can vary widely and is often most examine aspect explore in legal cases.

Fair use is one of many statutory rights to use copyrighted works.

Fair use is now encoded in the U.S. Copyright Act, which also includes many other provisions allowing uses of works in the classroom, in libraries, and for many other purposes. These statutes, however, are highly detailed, and the right to use works is usually subject to many conditions and limitations.

Uses are also allowed with permission.

If your use of a copyrighted work is not within one of the statutory exceptions, you may need to secure permission from the copyright owner. A non-exclusive permission does not need to be in writing, but a signed writing is almost always good practice. The permission may come directly from the copyright owner, or through the Copyright Clearance Center or similar agency.

Fair Use Checklist

Need some help determining if you are using the Fair Use exception appropriately? 
Try Columbia University's Fair Use Checklist.

BlackBoard and FairUse

Posting an item to the learning management system (LMS) does not exempt an instructor from copyright regulations. Therefore, instructors are encouraged to follow copyright "best practices" as outlined in the Copyright Clearance Center’s publication, Using-Course Management Systems.

 Note that the guidelines suggested below are based on one interpretation of U.S. Copyright Law. If in doubt, it is always advisable to err on the side of caution and complete a fair use evaluation.



Not Allowed


Web site containing copyrighted material

Link to the Web site via the LMS

Copying and pasting the information into the LMS 

Copyrighted Web image

Must be educational in nature; display in the LMS for one semester

Repeated use over multiple semesters

Article from a library database

Direct linking to article allowed

Copying and pasting the article into the LMS

Article, book, book chapter, or DVD obtained through interlibrary loan or otherwise borrowed from another library

Permission must be obtained

Permission denied or not obtained

Scanned copyrighted image

Must be educational in nature; display in the LMS for one semester

Repeated use over multiple semesters

Scanned chapter from a book

5% of the total work if in-print; 10% of the total work if out-of-print; allowed for one semester

More than the allotted percentages or repeated use over multiple semesters

Scanned article from a journal, trade publication, or magazine

A single article for one semester

Multiple articles from the same publication or repeated use over multiple semesters

Audio files

No more than thirty seconds without permission

Repeated use over multiple semesters

Video files

10% or three minutes, whichever is less

Repeated use over multiple semesters