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Copyright and Fair Use: Copyright Quick Start

A guide to authoritative sites for copyright and Fair Use


According to the U.S. Copyright Office: Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S.Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords
  • prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
  • perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audio­-visual works
  • display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
  • perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission 

Exemptions for Academia

Special Copyright Provisions for Academia provided by the Copyright Clearance Center

The Copyright Act contains some specific exceptions for the use of copyright-protected materials by academic institutions. These provisions include:

Section 107 on fair use, which applies to activities such as the use of excerpts for illustration or comment; the unexpected and spontaneous reproduction of classroom materials, and the creation of parodies.

Section 108 on reproduction by libraries and archives, which applies to activities such as archiving; replacing lost, damaged or obsolete copies; patron requests for entire works; and interlibrary loans.

Section 109 on first sale, which permits the resale or lending of copies of works, providing the basis for library lending and the sale of used books.

Section 110 on the use of materials in an educational setting, which permits certain types of content use in the classroom and in distance education.

For complete texts of laws, codes and cases regarding Copyright and Fair Use check out Stanford's Copyright and Fair Use Primary Materials page.

What About Articles from Interlibrary Services?

Articles received through Interlibrary Services from another library are licensed for single use only. This means they cannot legally be duplicated or posted online.

Fair Use

These are guidelines for portions of lawfully acquired copyrighted works that can be used according to Fair Use as indicated by the U.S. Copyright Office and the Conference on Fair Use.


Amount Suggested to meet Fair Use


Up to 10% or 3 minutes, whichever is less


Up to 10% or 1000 words, whichever is less;
1 chapter out of 10 chapter book

Music/Lyrics/Music Video

Up to 10%, but no more than 30 seconds


No more than 5 images from a single artist;
10% of a published collective works, but no more than 15 works

Data Sets (databases)

Up to 10% or 2500 fields, whichever is less

4 Factors of Fair Use

Evaluate your own use of copyrighted materials. 


Favors Fair Use

Opposes Fair Use






Creator not credited




Favors Fair Use

Opposes Fair Use

Published work

Unpublished Work



Important to educational objective



Favors Fair Use

Opposes Fair Use

Small Quantity

Large portion or whole work used

Portion not central to entire work

Using most significant portion of work


Favors Fair Use

Opposes Fair Use

User purchased original copy of work

Could replace sale of work

One or few copies made

Numerous copies made

No significant effect on the market for the work

Impairs market potential of the work or derivatives

No similar product marketed (such as – no individual electronic chapter of the book is available for purchase)

Portion used could be easily purchased

Restricted Access

Posted to open web


Repeated or long-term use

Checklist available at