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Library Services: Copyright for Course Reserves

Is It Fair Use?

If use is Fair Use, then it may be used without permission. If a use is not Fair Use, permission must be obtained. Please note that not all educational use is automatically Fair Use. The Four Factor test must be applied to each use of a work and is applied to any medium.

The Four Factors:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

For more information, see Title 17 of the U.S. Code, Section 107 Limitations of Exclusive Rights: Fair Use

Likely Fair Use

Likely Permission Needed

Why will the work be used?

  • Criticism
  • Educational
  • News and reportage
  • Non-profit
  • Personal
  • Teaching and learning
  • Scholarship and research
  • Commercial
  • Entertainment
  • For-profit

What type of work will be used?

  • Factual
  • Published
  • Creative work (e.g. fiction writing)
  • Unpublished (includes student work)

How much of the work will be used?

  • Small amount (e.g. 1 article per journal or 1 chapter from a book)
  • Large amount (More than 10%)
  • Core or "essence"

What effect will this use have on the potential marketplace?

  • None
  • Licensing/Permission unavailable
  • Major effect
  • Available to the world

For More Information

Public Domain

A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be freely used by everyone.  The reasons that the work is not protected include:  (1) the term of copyright for the work has expired;  (2) the author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright; (3) the work is a work of the U.S. Government; (4) the work was dedicated to the public domain using a Creative Commons tool.

Date of Work

Protected From


Created 1/1/1978 or later

When work is fixed in tangible medium of expression

Life + 70 years1 (or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation2

Published before 1923

In public domain


Published from 1923-1963

When published with notice3

28 years + could be renewed for 47 years, now extended by 20 years for a total renewal of 67 years. If not so renewed, now in public domain

Published from 1964-1977

When published with notice

28 years for first term; now automatic extension of 67 years for second term

Created but not published before 1/1/1978

1/1/1978, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright

Life + 70 years or 12/31/2002, whichever is greater

Created before 1/1/1978 but published between then and 12/31/2002

1/1/1978, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright

Life + 70 years or 12/31/2047 whichever is greater

Table by Laura N. Gasaway, Paul B. Eaton Distinguished Professor Emeritus, UNC Chapel Hill

  1. Term of joint works is measured by life of the longest-lived author.

  2. Works for hire, anonymous, and pseudonymous works also have this term.  17 U.S.C. § 302(c).

  3. Under the 1909 Act, works published without notice went into the public domain upon publication. Works published without notice between 1-1-1978 and 3-1-1989, effective date of the Berne Convention Implementation Act, retained copyright only if efforts to correct the accidental omission of notice was made within five years, such as by placing notice on unsold copies. 17 U.S.C. § 405.

    (Notes courtesy of Profes
    sor Tom Field, Professor Emeritus, Franklin Pierce Law Center, and Lolly Gasaway).