Fair Use Week: Fair Use: 4 Factors

An event celebrating the important doctrines of fair use in the United States and fair dealing in Canada and elsewhere.



Fair Use: 4 Factors



Events & Workshops


Fair Use Guidelines

Determining whether your use of another's work can be considered fair use can be complicated, and there are pretty much no clear answers. 

The Four Factors

Fair Use is an exemption of U.S. Copyright Law 17 U.S. Code § 107 which allows anyone to use the copyrighted works of others without permission when the circumstances of the use are Fair, rather than infringing, based on 4 factors. Only a court can decide what is truly “fair use.” However, U.S. law allows anyone to conduct a well-informed fair use analysis in good faith to determine if their proposed use of copyrighted material is more fair or more infringing. Fair Dealing is a similar provision in Canada and the United Kingdom.
When considering using a copyrighted work, if no other exemptions apply and no license states how you may use it, conduct a Fair Use Analysis:
The Four Factors to consider for a Fair Use Analysis are:
(1) Purpose and Character (of the use)
(2) Nature (of the copyrighted work)
(3) Amount and Substantiality (of the work to be used)
(4) Effect (on the potential market for or value of the original work).  

Fair Use around the world: Canada and countries that follow United Kingdom laws include a similar provision called Fair Dealing. Most other countries do not have a similar provision within their copyright (or intellectual property) laws.


Learn more about Fair Use


As students, researchers, teachers, creators, consumers, and sharers of media, texts, and more, we all build on the ideas of others. Did you know that when you cite a quotation, create a parody, or modify and share a meme, that you’re benefiting from Fair Use, a four-factor exemption of U.S. Copyright Law (17 U.S. Code § 107)?


Fair Use allows anyone to:

  • Re-distribute

  • Perform

  • Electronically transmit

  • Publicly display

  • Create new versions

… of others’ copyrighted works without permission*

*When the potential use is deemed to be ‘fair,’ rather than ‘infringing.’ While only a court can decide what is truly ‘fair use, U.S. law allows anyone to conduct a well-informed fair use analysis in good faith, using the four factors.