Fair use is defined in The Copyright Law of the United States of America, Title 17, Sec. 107.

Fair use is a privilege.

The educational use of many copyrighted materials may either be used under the privilege and right of fair use or the use of that copyrighted material may require permission from the copyright holder.

Whether your use of copyrighted material is fair use or not depends upon the four factors detailed in the Copyright Act. More importantly, fair use is determined by balancing all of these factors in relation to the use.

The four factors include:

  1. the purpose and character of the use
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work
  3. the amount and substantiality used
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

As members of Ball State University, a nonprofit education institution, the Copyright Act provides important protection when good faith and acting reasonably are applied in determining the privilege of fair use in the classroom. A good faith effort means that you have considered all applications of the four factors. Some of the considerations to apply when using the four factors include the following judgements.


  • Nonprofit educational use
  • Face-to-face teaching
  • Criticism and comment
  • Scholarship and research
  • News reporting


  • Digital or analog
  • Fiction or non-fiction
  • Audio-visual formats including sound recordings
  • Software
  • Dramatic or non-dramatic
  • Performance or display
  • Published or unpublished
  • Published before or after 1976
  • Sculpture
  • Picture


  • Quantatative: a small portion
  • Qualitative: not the "heart of the work"


  • No significant effect on the market for the copyrighted work
  • No significant effect on the potential market for the copyrighted work
  • No similar product marketed
  • Licensing or permission mechanism is absent

It is the responsibility of University Copyright Center in the library to assist you with your fair use concerns and as well as assisting you with obtaining clearances for materials that fall outside the scope of fair use.