Loyola University Chicago


School of Law

How do I determine if something is fair use?

Section 107 of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 107, allows use of copyrighted works for certain limited purposes, such as teaching and scholarship, but only if the use is fair as determined by applying a four factor test. Specific information about fair use and the four factor test is available via Loyola University Chicago's web page Use of Copyrighted Works by University Faculty. Additional resources pertaining to fair use in the context of course management software are listed below:


"The Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-for-Profit Educational Institutions with Respect to Books and Periodicals (Classroom Guidelines)" may be another source for determining what constitutes fair use in a courseware environment. FN1 The Classroom Guidelines stemmed from an agreement reached in 1976 between publishers, educational institutions, and authors regarding photocopying for classroom use. The Guidelines are not the law, and were not originally intended to apply to course web pages, but may offer some fair use guidance. FN2

The Guidelines allow multiple copies of articles and excerpts from books if the copying complies with certain standards. For example, the Guidelines allow the following, assuming other standards are also met:

  1. Copying a complete article, story, or essay of less than 2,500 words
  2. Copying an excerpt of any work of prose, if the excerpt is not more than 1,000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less, but in any event a minimum of 500 words

There are a number of accompanying requirements in the Classroom Guidelines, such as posting a copyright notice, and limiting copying to one term per instructor. You should review the Classroom Guidelines carefully before relying on them.

Prepared by Nanette Norton and Julienne Grant.

FN1 See Laura Gasaway, "Course Management Software and Copyright," Information Outlook7, no.1 (January 2003), available at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_mOFWE/is_1_7/ai_96631057.

FN2 See Library of Congress, Copyright Office, Circular 21:  Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians  (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998) 7-10, available at http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ21.pdf.