OC logo

OC Libraries

Skip to main content

Copyright and Fair Use

What is Fair Use?

Fair Use is a concept embedded in U.S. law that recognizes that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright holder. (See Title 17, section 107)

What Determines Fair Use?

The following four factors are used to determine if a use is fair:

  1. The purpose of the use (eg. commercial vs. educational)*
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount of the material used (the greater the amount copied, the less likely it is fair use)
  4. The effect of use on the potential market for or value of the work

* Not all uses in an academic context are automatically considered fair use!

Fair Use in Academia

The Fair Use Doctrine is probably the most important exemption to copyright protections for educational settings, allowing many uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching and research. The complexity of fair use and its importance in academia make it imperative that every member of OC understands how to make judgments concerning fair use.


The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (“TEACH”) Act was enacted in November 2002 as an amendment to the Copyright Act of 1976. Under the Teach Act, accredited, nonprofit U.S. educational institutions are permitted to make certain copyright-protected materials available online to students, without having to obtain permission from the copyright holder. The TEACH Act’s exemptions are intended for distance learning purposes only.