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Scholarly Communication: Fair Use and Other Exceptions

Fair Use

While copyright holders have exclusive rights to determine how their works are reproduced, distributed, displayed, and performed, there are exceptions to those rights in the law. One major exception is the doctrine of fair use (Section 107).

Individuals who'd like to use a copyrighted work for "purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research" can use the following four factors to determine if their proposed use favors fair use or warrants permission from the copyright holder:

  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.

Performing and Displaying Copyrighted Works in the Classroom

The law also contains an exception for performing and displaying copyrighted works in the classroom. Section 110(1) includes the following language:

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:

(1) performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made.

In order for this exception to apply, all of the conditions must be met, and the exception does not apply to works that are "transmitted" (often as part of distance education). Section 110(2), commonly referred to as the TEACH Act, details a number of requirements that must be met in order for that exception to apply. For more information, check out the University of Minnesota's TEACH Act page.

The resources on this site are included for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have specific legal questions, please contact an attorney.