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Copyright & Fair Use

Copyright Basics

Copyrighted materials are protected from infringement and other illegal use by federal and state laws. Willful misuse by Benedictine University employees or students can result in severe penalties including fines and imprisonment for individuals, as well as employee termination and student expulsion. Guidance provided by the Benedictine University Library should not be considered legal counsel. All costs and fees associated with obtaining copyright permission(s) are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) seeking copyright permission, and not the Benedictine University Library.

Library Copyright Service

The Library welcomes the opportunity to assist you with your copyright questions relating to publications, presentations, course reserves and more. We help investigate copyright status, conduct fair use analysis, and offer advice on interpreting the University and Library copyright policies. Visit our Copyright Research Guide for information on teaching with copyrighted materials. Direct your copyright inquiries to

Fair Use in Higher Education

The doctrine of Fair Use affords members of the academic community many opportunities to use copyrighted material. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Code of Best Practices in Fair Use informs the BenU Library's local policies and practices. 

Fair Use Analysis

Below are four factors to consider when determining whether or not your intended use of copyrighted material constitutes fair use:

  1. Nature of the work used. Is the copyrighted work fiction or non-fiction? The use of non-fiction works is generally favored more strongly than fiction or drama.
  2. Substantiality. How much of the copyrighted work is being used? Guidelines such as the "ten percent rule" and "one book chapter/journal article" offer some assistance in the analysis, but copyright law does not have hard and fast rules in this regard.
  3. Transformative effects. How is the copyrighted work being used? Does the copyrighted work form the basis of a new factual or creative work, or is it being used mostly as-is. Generally, the more transformative the use, the more permissible.
  4. Market effects. Perhaps most importantly, would the use of the copyrighted work favorably or unfavorably affect the actual or potential commercial market for that work? In other words, you must determine whether actual or potential sales could reasonably be lost from the use of the copyrighted work.
Additional Resources for Fair Use Analysis

Creative Commons

Creative Commons (CC) issues public copyright licenses that allow the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. Creators use CC licenses when they want to give people the right to use or redistribute work that they have created. In addition to providing creators with flexible control over their work (e.g., the ability to restrict usage to only non-commercial uses of their work), CC licenses protect those who use or redistribute the work, without fear of copyright infringement, as long as they abide by the conditions specified in the license.


Public Domain

Works fall out of copyright over time and into the public domain, where they may be used freely for any purpose. In most cases, age determines whether or not a work is in the public domain.

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