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Copyright and Fair Use

Adapted from Texas A&M University Central Texas libuguide.

Fair Use

Fair use, at its most basic, is the unlicensed use of copyrighted works in certain circumstances. It's purpose is to promote freedom of expression but the use must meet fair use criteria to be legal. It presumes the use is minimal enough that it does not interfere with the copyright holder's rights.

Uses that may quality for fair use are:

  • Criticism
  • Commentary
  • News Reporting
  • Teaching
  • Scholarship
  • Research

Outside of the UT System license, use of copyrighted material is dependent on Fair Use, which is defined under Section 107 of the United States Copyright Law.

See the Fair Use Index for additional information. 

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

  1. Purpose: 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. Nature: What is the characteristic nature of work - is it fact or fiction; has it been published or not?
  3. Amount: 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. Effect: 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 logoPublic 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