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Copyright for Students

What is Fair Use?

The Fair Use Doctrine (17 USC, sec. 107) allows exemptions to copyright protections for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, education, or scholarly research.  These uses of copyright-protected works do not require payment to or permission from the copyright holder.

What Determines Fair Use?

The following four factors are used to determine fair use:

  • The purpose of the use - ex. commercial vs. educational* use
  • The nature of the copyrighted work - is the original work factual or creative; using facts is more likely considered to be fair use
  • The amount of the material used - the greater the amount copied, the less likely it is fair use
  • The effect of use on the potential market for or value of the work

*Not all uses in an academic context are automatically considered fair use if you have questions please ask a CSU librarian!

 Have you ever posted a video or picture online that contains preexisting media? Used a quote or paraphrased information from an author in an academic paper? Wrote a book, movie, or music review? 

These are all instances that fall under the purview of Fair Use. If Fair Use did not exist none of these situations would be allowed without permission from the copyright holder.


DO NOT photocopy or share complete, copyrighted works!

Fair Use applies in general but you still need to cite EVERYTHING used from any source to avoid plagiarism!

Violating Copyright Plagiarism
Is illegal Is unethical but not illegal
Punishable in a court of law Punishable by academic institutions
Theft of someone's original work without obtaining permission Theft of someone's words or ideas without giving proper credit
Does allow for Fair Use under guidelines Does not allow for leniency

Additional information is available on the CSU Library's Avoid Plagiarism Guide.


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