Skip to Main Content

Copyright Guidelines

Information and links to quality information about copyright issues.

What is Fair Use?

fair use logoFair use is a limitation to the exclusive rights of copyright holders which allows for some reproduction and use of creative work without the permission of the copyright holder. Section 107 of the copyright law, which is in Title 17 of the U.S. Code, contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. However, ultimately fair use can only be decided on a case-by-case basis, determined by balancing four factors.

The Four Factors of Fair Use

1. The purpose and character of the use.

  • Transformative use is favored over derivative use.
  • Non-profit use if favored over commercial or for-profit use.
  • Purposes that favor fair use include education, scholarship, and research.

2. The nature of the copyrighted work.

  • Works that are faculty and scholarly in nature are favored over those that are artistic and creative.
  • Non-fiction is favored over fiction.
  • Published sources are favored over unpublished sources.

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.

  • The larger the amount the less likely the use if fair; the amount used should be proportional to the work as a whole not to a standard figure.
  • Peripheral material is favored over something from the "heart" of the work.

4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

  • Uses that serve a different audience or purpose than the original work favor fair use.
  • Use of the work in a way that substitutes for the original in the market does not favor fair use.
  • Repeated or long-term use does not favor fair use.
  • Copying material just to avoid purchase is not fair use.


With the tools below, the community can evaluate their use of copyrighted works to determine if they fall under fair use. It is the responsibility of individual community members to be aware of “fair use” and to determine whether or not their use of copyright materials is legal under “fair use” provisions of the Copyright Act.

Creative Commons License

Unless otherwise noted, the content of these guides by Loras College Library, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Some icons by Yusuke Kamiyamane. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.