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Association of Research Libraries (ARL®)

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Prue Adler
Copyright & Intellectual Property Policies

Fair Use Legislation

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Each day teachers teach, students learn, researchers advance knowledge, and consumers access copyrighted information due to exemptions in the Copyright Act such as fair use.  Fair use permits the use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder under certain circumstances.  For libraries,  educational institutions, and the public, the Fair Use Doctrine is the most important limitation on the rights of the copyright owner – the "safety valve" of U.S. copyright law.

Fair use or Section 107 of the Copyright Act allows reproduction and other uses of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research.  The statute sets forth four factors to be considered in determining whether a use is fair; including the character of the use, the nature of the work, the amount used in proportion to the whole, and the impact on the market for the work.  The four factors provide libraries and users alike with needed flexibility.