Answered By: Laura Sider
Last Updated: Sep 12, 2017     Views: 270

Q: How much of someone’s work can I use without permission?
Answered by: Laura Sider

It depends.  Under the Fair Use Doctrine (an exception to a copyright holder’s exclusive rights) a person may use a reasonable portion of a copyrighted work for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.  The smallest amount of the copyrighted work that gets your point across should be used.  Undertake a fair use analysis of the four factors to determine if YOUR use is considered fair.  The factors are:

  • The PURPOSE and character of the use, whether it is commercial or nonprofit educational.  Noncommercial educational uses tend to favor fair use.
  • The NATURE of the work.  Whether it is factual or creative.  The more creative, the LESS it favors fair use.
  • The AMOUNT and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole.  Using the heart of the copyrighted work DISFAVORS fair use.  Small portions or snippets favor fair use.
  • The MARKET effect of your use of the work.  Will your use have an impact on the creator’s ability to market his/her own work?  If no effect, it favors fair use.



Disclaimer: These Ask Yale Library questions are fluid and subject to change.  If you have suggestions or feedback on this, please contact the Licensing & Copyright Librarian.  The information provided in this guide is for your general information purposes only and not to be construed as legal advice.  For legal advice, please consult with your own attorney or Yale's Office of General Counsel.

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