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Copyright for Educators: Fair Use and Public Domain

A guide for educators about copyright and open educational resources.

What is Fair Use?

Fair use is the exception in the Copyright law (Section 107) that allows use of copyrighted works for various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:


1. Purpose
2. Nature of the Copyrighted Work
3. Amount and Substantiality
4. Effect of use on the Potential Market

Copyright For Libraries

What is Public Domain?

A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.