Fair Use

Sample Instructor Statements

Copyright laws and fair use policies protect the rights of those who have produced the material.

The copies in this course has been provided for private study, scholarship, or research. Other uses may require permission from the copyright holder. The user of this work is responsible for adhering to copyright law of the U.S. (Title 17, U.S. Code).  

The TEACH Act requires a copyright notice to be on online course websites.  The TEACH Act Toolkit offers the following sample copyright notice:

The materials on this course Web site are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated.


I am not a lawyer and this guide does not constitute legal advice. If you have legal questions, please contact a lawyer.
— Nana Owusu-Nkwantabisa

What is Fair Use?

Codified in § 107 of U.S. copyright law, fair use is the acknowledgement that sometimes society is better served by allowing people to use copyrighted materials without going through the process of obtaining permission.  Favored uses specifically mentioned in the statute include "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research," but this list is non-exhaustive: any use passing the "four-factor fair use test" can be considered "fair."

How does fair use work?

§ 107 states: "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.

Permission to reuse content from Hoover Library, McDaniel College.