It is not necessary to obtain permission from the copyright holder to quote a brief excerpt of a copyrighted work. Although there is no clear definition of either “Fair Use” or “brief excerpt,” a good rule of thumb is 500 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less. Factors to be looked at in determining whether “Fair Use” applies are found in Title 17 United States Code Subsection 107. These factors include:
- the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
- the nature of the copyrighted work;
- the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
- the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
For example, use of material for commentary, criticism, or parody are more likely to be considered “Fair Use.” This depends in part upon whether it to be used for its actual content or as an illustration of something else, thus transforming it from the original use of the author/copyright holder.
While as a rule of thumb, the use of 10% of the total work being used will be okay, this is not always the case. There are instances in which use of the “heart” of a new or recent work will result in liability for infringement. Accordingly, each use must be looked at closely.
When a brief excerpt of a copyrighted work is used (including graphics and development work), the creator of the product must provide a proper citation of the original source, and an acknowledgement of the copyright.
One time use of a complete journal article or similar item may be okay. However, if the material will be used multiple times (for example, a journal article that will be used in a course for multiple semesters), it is necessary to seek permission to use the material. This applies whether the material is physically handed out to the students, emailed, or posted on the internet using Blackboard ™ or other approved media.
When in doubt seek permission from the copyright holder either directly or through the Copyright Clearance Center ER login required.