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Copyright Information and Policies

A place to go for information on copyright laws and guidelines

Fair Use Guidelines and Checklist

Section 107 of the Copyright Act establishes the Fair Use exception to copyright protections. The actual text itself is short, but has been the source of many legal arguments because of how it is meant to be applied on a case-by-case basis rather than through the creation of one-size-fits-all guidelines. Here is what the law actually says:


Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.


Reasonable people can disagree about what constitutes a fair use, but in most cases, a good faith effort to stay within the law can prevent drastic consequences in the case of a mistake. Fortunately for those of us who aren’t lawyers, a fair use evaluation checklist is available to guide our evaluation process. The checklist is available below for you to download, print, and use. If you would like assistance using this checklist, please reach out to us at Vogel Library.

Vogel Library, Wartburg College   |   100 Wartburg Blvd, Waverly, IA, 50677 |   Phone: 319-352-8500   | Email: