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Copyright at JMU

A guide to copyright at James Madison University

Fair Use

The Doctrine of Fair Use allows for limited reproduction of copyrighted materials, included printed, textual sources. There are four factors in determining fair use. It is important to note that these factors provide interdependent criteria; each factor must be considered when deciding whether your use of copyrighted materials falls within fair use:

  • Purpose and character of the use: Using copyrighted material when teaching at a non-profit, public institution of higher education such as JMU, favors fair use.
  • Nature of the copyrighted work: Analytical works are more suitable for reproduction in accordance with fair use. As an example, reproducing the text of the play "The Crucible" would likely fall outside of fair use, whereas reproducing a limited part of a book examining the life and works of Arthur Miller would probably fall within fair use.
  • Amount and sustainability: The old "rule of thumb" of not reproducing more than 10% of the copyrighted work may still have some validity, however care is needed. The best way to approach the question is to use as little of the copyrighted work necessary, while meeting the original need for which you decided to use the work in the first place. For periodical literature, the limit may be regarded as being no more than one article from an individual issue of a journal. It is also important to remember that materials obtained through Inter-Library Loan cannot be reproduced and provided to students. 
  • Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work: This factor remains the hardest to define. If you intend to use a substantial amount of a work, which may draw substantial revenue away from the copyright holder, it may be prudent to consider licensing the material or presenting it in a course pack produced by JMU Print Services, who may be able to obtain appropriate licensing once you have completed their copyright permission request form.


For an excellent overview of the Doctrine of Fair Use, consult the Fair Use Checklist, developed and maintained by Columbia University Libraries.