8. Fair Use: Tips for Best Practice
While it is important to perform a fair use evaluation for each and every use of copyrighted material, there are some general rules that can help you to strengthen a fair use claim. Below are a few general guidelines to follow whenever using copyrighted works in your creative activities.
- Use only lawfully acquired copyrighted works – To be able to claim fair use you must have used a legal copy of the original work.
- Acknowledge all your sources with a bibliographic citation – Giving proper credit to the original creator may help strengthen your fair use case.
- Use only the amount of the original work that you need to accomplish your goal – Since the amount of the original work that is used is one of the fair use factors, it is always important to only use what you need and not add extra material.
- Make as few copies as you can – The less you copy and share the parts of the original work, the less effect you have on the market for it.
- Use Creative Commons licensed or public domain works – If you use works that expressly allow you to use them or have no copyright protection, you do not need to rely on fair use and can be more confident that your use is legal.
- Use self-created works – If you created it, you own the copyright.
- If you are in doubt about your fair use claim, either reassess your use to make a stronger claim or ask for permission to use the copyrighted material – It is much easier to make changes or ask for permission before you use copyrighted material than to get hit with an infringement claim and have to make changes or face a law suit after your use.
Further Reading on Fair Use:
A number of groups have developed Codes of Best Practices in Fair Use for different types of activities. These codes help give general guidelines for fairly using copyrighted material in certain types of works, such as documentary film, or for certain user groups, such as academic librarians. Below are links to some of these Codes of Best Practices.
- Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video
- Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry
- Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare
- Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use
- Association of Research Libraries Codes of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries
- Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education
- Center for Social Media List of Best Practices
Fair use allows you to build upon and incorporate copyrighted works without permission. Understanding what it is and how it works can help you create and use materials with confidence.