Fair Use

Fair use rights

The fair use provision of the copyright law allows the making of copies for ‘purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.’ Fair Use requires the consideration of four factors:

  1. Purpose and Character: Is the use non-profit or commercial? Does your use transform the original?*
  2. Nature: Is the work mostly facts or is it creative?
  3. Amount: How much is used – a small part, or nearly all?
  4. Effect: Will the use have a negative effect on the commercial market for the work?

*Transformative use: Does the new work take the original content and alter it in a substantive way, imbuing it with new meaning, significance, or purpose? Some examples include parody, remixing, and critique.

Applying “fair use” factors

Because “fair use” is a guideline based on several factors, a number of organizations have created checklists or worksheets to help people and organizations apply the factors to see if the use falls under “fair use:”

Fair use and streaming video Personal streaming video accounts with providers such as, but not limited to, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu may pose exceptions to fair use evaluation. Personal accounts on services such as these are liable to user agreements and these agreements often prohibit an activity such as streaming a movie in a classroom. Please review your user agreement to ensure your use is legal. For a more in-depth explanation, please see “May one stream a Netflix Video for in-class use? by Kris Helge, Scholarly Communications Librarian, University of North Texas.

Please do not confuse personal accounts with streaming service providers with the streaming content licensed by and available through Kennedy Library, such as Kanopy and BBC Shakespeare This content is fully available to stream in a classroom setting.

Personal fair use

A person may make one copy for their personal information or entertainment as long as it is not for commercial gain and is not plagiarized.


  • Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries (PDF document), created by librarians, this identifies eight situations that represent the library community’s current consensus on acceptable practices for the fair use of copyrighted materials.
  • Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education (PDF document), created by more than 150 members of leading educational associations, this document identifies five examples of best practices for Fair Use in media literacy education.
  • Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video (PDF document), this document provide best practices in Fair Use to help creators and others interested in creating online video.
  • Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts (PDF document), created by the College Art Association, this document identifies five examples of best practices for Fair Use in the visual arts.
  • Code of Best Practices in Fair Use of Dance-Related Materials (PDF document), produced by the dance heritage coalition, this document identifies five examples of best practices for fair use when working with dance-related materials.