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Copyright and Fair Use

Adapted from Texas A&M University Central Texas libuguide.

Fair Use

Outside of the UT System license, use of copyrighted material is dependent on the concept of Fair Use, Section 107 of the United States Copyright Law. It presumes the use is minimal enough so that it does not interfere with the copyright holder's rights. Under the "fair use" rule of copyright law, an author may make limited use of another author's work without asking permission. 

Fair use is intended to support teaching, research, and scholarship, but educational purpose alone does not make every use of a work fair. 

See the Fair Use Index for additional information. 

It is always important to analyze how you are going to use a particular works against the following four factors of fair use:

  1. What is your purpose in using the materials? Are you going to use the material for monetary gain or for education or research purposes?
  2. What is the characteristic nature of work - is it fact or fiction; has it been published or not?
  3. How much of the work are you going to use? Small amount or large? Is it the significant or central part of the work?
  4. How will your use of the work effect the author's or the publisher's ability to sell the material? If your purpose is for research or education, your effect on the market value may be difficult to prove. However, if your purpose is commercial gain, then you  are not following fair use.

The Fair Use Evaluator can help you decide if you are using copyrighted material "fairly" under the U.S. Copyright Law. 

The following charts can provide helpful information on deciding if you are using copyrighted material fairly:

Additional Resources

Public Domain

Public domain refers to works that do not fall under copyright restrictions. Three main categories of public domain works:

  • works that automatically enter the public domain upon creation (titles, names, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, numbers, ideas and facts, government works)
  • works that have been assigned to public domain by creators
  • works that entered public domain after copyright expired