Four Factors of Fair Use

Materials held on reserve must comply with copyright law and policy, or fall under the fair use guidelines of copyright law. This page provides some information to help you work through the fair use checklist required to place the item on reserve.

Intended Use

When submitting an item to be held on reserve, consider what the work will be used for. Will it be used for education, scholarship, comment, research, or criticism? If the work will be used for any other purpose than those listed above, copyright permission must be acquired.

Once you have determined the intended use, complete the Reserve Checklist for Fair Use to decide if the purpose of use, the nature of the work, the amount of work being used, and the effect of the use on the potential market, qualify the work for fair use. Each of these four factors is described in more detail below:

The Four Factors


Fair use is more likely to apply when a work is used for a nonprofit, educational purpose such as teaching, research, scholarships, criticism, or comment. The use must also be transformative or have a productive use.

In other words, the work is used to be commented on, criticized, remade as a parody, or repurposed so that the main idea behind it can be more easily identified. In addition, the work must have some type of restricted access so that only a specific group of people, such as students, are able to access it.


In order for a work to fully favor fair use, it must be a published work that is factual, or nonfiction, and be important to the course objectives. Consumable works, such as standardized tests and workbooks, will never qualify for fair use.


In order for a work to fully favor fair use, it must be a small quantity of the work that is no more than necessary for its educational purpose, and the portion may not be the central part, or “heart,” of the work which would weigh against fair use.


“Effect” refers to the effect the use of the work will have on the potential market. In other words, will the use of the work cause an economic loss for the copyright holder? In order for a work to fully favor fair use, it must have been lawfully acquired, have no significant effect on the potential market, be no longer in print, or have no similar product on the market by the same copyright holder, and there can be only one or few copies made of the work.

The Completed Checklist

If after completing the checklist, the item has more selections favoring fair use, then the item is most likely fair use and may be used without copyright permission. However, if there are more selections for opposing fair use, copyright permission must be obtained before it can be used.

IMPORTANT: A completed and signed checklist must be submitted for each individual item favoring fair use.

If the Reserve staff feels that an item does not meet fair use requirements, you will be contacted regarding that item.