Fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission for purposes such as criticism, parody, news reporting, research and scholarship, and teaching.
However, using it for educational purpose is not equal to automatic qualification as fair use.
U.S. Copyright Law set forth four factors that all need to be considered when qualifying a fair use.
Four Factors in Determining Fair Use
||Weighing in favor of fair use
||Weighing against fair use
|Purpose & Character of Use
Educational, non-profit, and personal uses
Transformative (resulting in an entirely new work or using for a new and different purpose)
|Commercial use (but not automatically defeat a fair use claim)
|Nature of Copyrighted work
Published works and factual
Highly creative works
|Amount and Substantiality
||Less proportion (not just quantity but also qualitatively assess, i.e. if being the "heart of the work")
||More proportion (no absolute limits outlined in the law)
|Effect Upon the Potential Market
No economic harm to the copyright owner
No negative impact on potential market and potential value of the work
|Resulting in economic harm or effecting on potential market and value of the work
All four factors need to be considered together in balance. It's not all or nothing. Even if a use contains all elements in favor, it may still not qualified as fair use. See more discussion and examples about the four factors in the resources listed in the box Determining Fair Use on the right side.
The final answer to the justification eventually depends upon the jurisdiction if the case escalates to a legal case. Therefore, you always need to gauge the risk level that you are comfortable to take. Here are some general examples of risk levels (From:Teaching Our Faculty: Developing Copyright and Scholarly Communication Outreach Programs,” by J. Duncan, S. K. Clement, and B. Rozum, 2013, in S. Davis-Kahl and M. K. Hensley (Eds.), Common ground at the nexus of information literacy and scholarly communication).
- High risk: Scan entire book; post to open web; Mass email to your entire class
- Some risk: Post in course management systems only accessible by registered students; screen movies, stream media for class use; share for scholarly purposes
- Low risk: licensed use, requested permission, classroom exemption
For more discussion and examples in teaching and research context, please see Chapter 4 of the IP Handbook linked below.