Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines Updated May 11, The information presented here is general information for educational purposes only. Faculty members should consult with their Program Chair or Course Chair on any issues related to using materials in their classroom. This resource describes general library and educational fair use and fair use exceptions for research and scholarly work.
Copyright Office Fair Use Index. Fair use is a longstanding and vital aspect of American copyright law.
The goal of the Index is to make the principles and application of fair use more accessible and understandable to the public by presenting a searchable database of court opinions, including by category and type of use e. The Fair Use Index tracks a variety of judicial decisions to help both lawyers and non-lawyers better understand the types of uses courts have previously determined to be fair—or not fair.
The decisions span multiple federal jurisdictions, including the U. Supreme Court, circuit courts of appeal, and district courts. Please note that while the Index incorporates a broad selection of cases, it does not include all judicial opinions on fair use.
The Copyright Office will update and expand the Index periodically. The Fair Use Index is designed to be user-friendly.
You may browse all of the cases, search for cases involving specific subject matter or categories of work, or review cases from specific courts.
The Index ordinarily will reflect only the highest court decision issued in a case. It does not include the court opinions themselves. Although the Fair Use Index should prove helpful in understanding what courts have to date considered to be fair or not fair, it is not a substitute for legal advice.
Fair use is a judge-created doctrine dating back to the nineteenth century and codified in the Copyright Act. Both the fact patterns and the legal application have evolved over time, and you should seek legal assistance as necessary and appropriate.
We hope you find the Fair Use Index a helpful resource. If you are concerned as to whether a particular use is fair, however, or believe that someone has made an unauthorized use of a copyrighted work in a manner that is not fair, it is best to consult an attorney.
Please note that the Copyright Office is unable to provide specific legal advice to individual members of the public about questions of fair use.Patents, trademarks, copyrights, and issues regarding public domain and fair use are part of an area of law called intellectual property law.
Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute (LII) has an overview of its intellectual property law articles, as part of its legal encyclopedia and dictionary WEX. If a work is not in the public domain, someone who wishes to use the work generally needs a license to copy and distribute the work to students, unless the use falls within the doctrine of fair use.
See Section below regarding fair use. The legal standards and rules for determining fair use or public domain content may seem confusing. These charts should help give you a better idea of the likelihood of whether your use of someone's work will run afoul of copyright law.
If a book, song, movie, or artwork is in the public domain, then it is not protected by intellectual property laws (copyright, trademark, or patent laws)—which means it’s free for you to use without permission. The Fair Use Index is designed to be user-friendly.
For each decision, we have provided a brief summary of the facts, the relevant question(s) presented, and the court’s determination as to whether the contested use was fair. All terms of copyright run through the end of the calendar year in which they would otherwise expire, so a work enters the public domain on the first of the year following the expiration of its copyright term.