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Copyright and Fair Use

Completing the Fair Use Checklist

Fair use is very context-dependent, so only you can determine if your use is fair.

The fair use checklist can help you organize your thoughts around the issues, although it does NOT tell you whether a proposed use is fair or not, and does NOT provide any kind of legal advice. It simply helps you structure your own reflections about the fair use factors, and provides a record that you did consider relevant issues.


Remember that no single factor is decisive of fair use. As you use the checklist and apply it to your situation, you are likely to check more than one box in each column and even check boxes across columns. Some checked boxes will favor fair use and others may oppose fair use. A key issue is whether you are acting reasonably in checking any given box, with the ultimate question being whether the cumulative weight of the factors favors or turns you away from fair use. This is not an exercise in simply checking and counting boxes. Instead, you need to consider the relative persuasive strength of the circumstances and if the overall conditions lean most convincingly for or against fair use.


Based on and used under a Creative Commons BY license from the University of Minnesota University Libraries.

Considerations for Factor 1: The Purpose and Character of the Use

Favoring Fair Use

TRANSFORMATIVE OR PRODUCTIVE USE: Check this box if your use transforms the copyrighted work into something new, uses the work for a different purpose, or adds value to a work. Transformative uses include, but are not limited to:

1. Quotations incorporated into a paper
2. Pieces of a work (or works) included in criticism or comment
3. Pieces of a work (or works) mixed into a multimedia product for your own teaching needs

4. Showing video clips to illustrate an idea
5. Placing works in an historical context
6. Showing a movie for purposes of exploring the narrative, artistic, cultural, economic, and/or political implications of the film

EDUCATIONAL: Check this box if you plan to use the copyrighted work for one of the listed purposes.

NONPROFIT USE: Check this box if your use does not commercially exploit the copyrighted work.

Disfavoring Fair Use

NON-TRANSFORMATIVE, VERBATIM/EXACT COPY: Check this box if you are making an exact copy of a work and using it for the same purpose as it was originally intended. Non-transformative uses include, but are not limited to:

1. Textbook copying
2. Workbook copying
3. Ripping files from videos produced for the educational 

COMMERCIAL, ENTERTAINMENT, OR OTHER: Check this box if your use commercially exploits the work, is for entertainment purposes, or uses the work for a purpose different from those listed in the checklist.

THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR IS NOT CREDITED IN THE MATERIAL: Crediting an author is part of the scholarly process and demonstrates good faith behavior when using copyrighted works (something courts often take into consideration when making legal decisions regarding fair use). We recommend you always credit the author.

PROFIT-GENERATING USE: Check this box if your use of the copyrighted work ultimately results in a profit-generating arrangement.

Considerations for Factor 2: Nature of the Use

Favoring Fair Use

FACTUAL, NONFICTION, NEWS: Check this box if the copyrighted work you plan to use is factual in nature, a nonfiction work, or a news item.

PUBLISHED WORK: Check this box if the copyrighted work is published or publicly available.


Disfavoring Fair Use

HIGHLY CREATIVE WORK (ART, MUSIC, FICTION): Check this box if the copyrighted material is creative in nature. Examples include, but are not limited to, literature, poetry, sculpture, paintings, and music.

UNPUBLISHED WORK: Check this box if the copyrighted work has not been published or made publicly available.

CONSUMABLE WORKS (WORKBOOKS, TESTS): Check this box if the copyrighted material is intended for one-time use. Consumable works are often intended to be written in or "consumed" by users.