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Copyright & Fair Use at UC San Diego: Home

Welcome to the Guide on Copyright & Fair Use

What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property law that protects original works of 'authorship' from literary works, to  artistic works and more.  Copyright protects the way an author expresses themselves and the owner of a copyrighted work has the right to authorize others to reproduce that work.    Protection is given to both published and unpublished works and do not require the copyright symbol as copyright begins at an items creation.  Learn more ...

What is Fair Use?

Fair Use is a way to use, without permission or payment, a portion of another's work. Each situation is different from the one before, and the rules codifying it do not specifically spell out how it is applied.  This flexibility is an advantage as technology changes how one might interact with content in so many new and different ways, but is very difficult when absolute answers are desired.  

There are several factors to consider when determining fair use at the university.  The information gathered here is gleaned from the government's copyright web page, the UC's copyright site as well as other universities' copyright web pages.  Please see the UC Resources tab for additional helpful resources.  Learn more ...

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4 Factors of Fair Use

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Fair Use

The Four Factors of Fair Use?

In a nutshell, fair use allows for the limited reproduction or modification of another's work without specifically requesting permission to do so because the use is a small portion of the whole work and for non-profit educational or research uses.  The guidance regarding fair use are the four factors:

  1. The purpose and character of the use which includes whether the use is for an educational purpose or one that is commercial.
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work.
  3. The amount & substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole.
  4. The effect of the use on the potential market for the copyrighted work.

for more details, please view the 4 Factors of Fair Use tab.

While there are these four factors, each situation may be different from the last and there are no hard and fast rules such as specific number of words or lines or defined percentage of the whole.  It is a balancing of these four factors that determines fair use.


What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property law (Title 17 of the US code) that protects original works as well as pomotes the advancement of knowledge.  Protection is of "original works of authorship" including literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic works, and also computer software.  Copyright protects the way an author expresses themselves; however, it does not cover ideas, systems, or factual information.   An owner of a copyrighted work has the right to control the use of their work including authorizing others to reproduce it - however, there are exceptions, notably, fair use.    

Protection is given to both published and unpublished works; copyright begins once it is in a "fixed" or tangible form - print or electronic.  Works do not have to have the copyright symbol attached (since 1989) - that is a voluntary process.  Formally establishing copyright ownership is a registration process that is rarely needed since copyright begins with the works creation.  It is mostly needed when dealing with a lawsuit.  ( For more on registering works, see the web site).

The 1976 Copyright Act provides important exceptions to copyright including a provision that codified the doctrine of "fair use" (Fair-use Statute Section 107).  And over time and through legislation and court cases, the doctrine of "fair use" has been established and to some degree codified.


International Copyright

According to the Association of Research Libraries,

"Copyright law is “territorial,” which means that fair use applies to uses of copyrighted material in the United States, regardless of where in the world it originates." 

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic & Research Libraries,
January 2012