Fair Use

Fair use is a legal exemption to the exclusive rights of copyright holders. It is determined on a case-by-case basis and is based on a consideration of the following four factors:

  • The purpose and character of the use (including whether it is transformative, commercial, non-profit, or educational)
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion to be used
  • The effect upon the potential market for the copyrighted work

Because intention is a part of the consideration, only the user can make the initial assessment of whether their use is fair. Cornell University Library provides a guide and checklist to help you in your determination. We strongly recommend that you complete and retain this form for all Fair Use considerations you make.

Fair use rules do not state a concrete maximum of usable material (not a number of words, or a length of time, or a percent of total). Fair use also does not mean that Cornell users can use/distribute any copyright material they want simply because Cornell is an educational non-profit. We are bound by copyright law too!

There is a lot of subtlety in Fair Use interpretations, for more information see the Copyright Office’s Information on Fair Use, and Case Index.   

Additional Resources

Learning About Fair Use

Benson, Sara. “Fair Use Video - Youtube.” Fair use video. University of Illinois Library, August 19, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhsTpDSqBXM.



Information contained on this website is educational in nature and is not to be construed as legal advice.

If you seek legal advice, please contact the Office of General Counsel.

Creative Commons License
Cornell University Library's Copyright Services LibGuide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Please attribute Cornell University in any reuse.