Fair use is a term that is described in Section 107 of The Copyright Law of the United States of America, Title 17. Fair use is the concept of the Copyright Law that allows the use of copyrighted material without explicit permission of the rights holder(s). The concept of fair use is applied under certain limited conditions described in the Copyright Law. For educators this means the use of excerpts of copyrighted works for certain educational purposes and under specific conditions. Fair use is a privilege.

Up until the ever-present use of inexpensive copies, the concept of fair use was unchallenged by content providers. That has changed. With the advent of digital formats, the Copyright Law has proven to be confusing, sometimes inadequate and at times unfair, obsolete in some instances and yet at the same time, a legislation that is still -- as a whole -- relevant for both rights holders and educators.

Copyright is a Constitutional guarantee with the express idea in it for the dissemination of ideas and information. Fair use is a legislated privilege which provides for the dissemination of those ideas and information. With these two concepts in mind, the Copyright and Intellectual Property Office at Ball State University believes that two main factors are involved for the appropriate, legal use of copyrighted materials in the face-to-face, blended, and distance education classrooms:

  • The ease of the fair use of copyrighted information for face-to-face instructors; and,
  • Fair compensation to the rights holder(s) for the use of their intellectual property that falls outside of the four factors of fair use.

It is the responsibility of The Copyright and Intellectual Property Office in Bracken Library to assist you with your fair use concerns.