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Copyright & Fair Use: Copyright Basics

Fair use

It's often believed that faculty and students can use any information without obtaining the permission of the copyright holder, because they are using it for educational purposes.  This is not true!  The copyright holder is the only one who can do so and also authorize others to create reproductions (photocopies, digital scans), prepare derivatives, and distribute copies of the work by sale, rental, lease or lending.  Section 107 of Copyright Law, "Fair use," as we commonly refer to it, is an exception which allows the use of copyrighted materials without obtaining the copyright holder's permission. In order to determine whether or not a particular use is fair, a four-factor analysis should be applied. The goal is to achieve a balance between the rights of the copyright holder and that of the public.  Fair use is interpretive and different for every single instance.  There is no black and white answer, so please contact a librarian for guidance; however, realize we cannot provide legal advice!

Image above used with Creative Commons license.  Original image can be found, here.

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Lindsey Gumb
Lindsey Gumb
Scholarly Communications Librarian
Associate Professor

Roger Williams University Library
Bristol, RI
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