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Introduction to the Fair Use Checklist

A reasonable fair-use analysis is based on four factors set forth in the fair-use provision of copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976. The application of those factors depends on the particular facts of your situation, and changing one or more facts may alter the outcome of the analysis. The “Checklist for Fair Use” derives from those four factors and from the judicial decisions interpreting copyright law.

The checklist provides an important means for recording your decision-making process. Maintaining a record of your fair-use analysis is critical to establishing your “reasonable and good-faith” attempts to apply fair use to meet your educational objectives. Section 504 (c)(2) of the Copyright Act offers some protection for educators and librarians who act in good faith. Once you have completed your application of fair use to a particular need, keep your completed checklist in your files for future reference.

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 concern is whether you are acting reasonably in checking any given box; the ultimate concern is whether the cumulative “weight” of the factors favors or opposes fair use. Because you are most familiar with your project, you are probably best positioned to make that decision.

You might choose to complete a single checklist to cover multiple resources in a course, if the responses would be the same for each. Complete a separate checklist if the nature of the resource or the nature of the use requires different responses on the checklist.

Excerpted and adapted, with permission, from Checklist for Fair Use: Introduction The Copyright Management Center, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Dec. 2007.