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Celebrate Fair Use Week

Fair Use Week Logo

From February 20 to 24, the Library is celebrating Fair Use Week. Our goal is to promote understanding of this important legal doctrine, which makes it possible for you to use quotes from copyrighted works in your papers, read a book chapter online for a class, enjoy a parody, or search Google Books.

What is fair use? Georgetown faculty and students take advantage of fair use every day—so what is it? United States copyright law gives a copyright owner the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, and display their work (Copyright Act, § 106). Fair use is an exception to that exclusive right that allows you to use limited portions of copyrighted material in your work without the permission of the copyright owner and without paying a license fee (Copyright Act, § 107).

What is covered by fair use? Fair use applies to all copyrighted works, including text, images, video, and music. Some examples of fair uses are teaching, scholarship, research, criticism, commentary, news reporting, and parody.

Why do we have fair use?  The purpose of copyright law is to advance knowledge. Or, as stated in the United States Constitution, to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts (United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8). One way this is done is by giving authors copyright in their work—the exclusive right to profit from their work for a limited period of time. Another way to advance knowledge is to allow the use of copyrighted materials in certain circumstances to build new knowledge. For example, when scholars quote from previously published copyrighted works, they build on the prior knowledge and create new knowledge.

What are the limits of fair use? Fair use determinations are made by evaluating what type of work you are using, how much of it you are using, and how you are using it. Four factors must be considered to determine whether a use is fair. Fair use analysis is always done on a case-by-case basis and is subjective and fact-specific.

  1. The purpose and character of your use: Educational uses are more likely to be considered fair use than commercial uses.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work: Using factual materials is more likely to be considered fair than using highly creative works.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion taken: Using a small portion of a work is more likely to be considered fair use than using a complete work.
  4. The effect on the potential market for the work: A use that has little to no impact on the market will be favored over a use that has a significant impact.

Read more about copyright, fair use, and Fair Use Week.