(adapted from K. Crews' work at http://copyright.columbia.edu)

Clipping, cutting, pasting, uploading, posting and many other activities that are common at the college may be copyright infringement or may be within fair use. When do you need to think about fair use? Some example situations:

  • Uploading materials to my.Westminster or another server.
  • Clipping and copying materials into innovative teaching tools.
  • Posting materials for distance learning.
  • Developing databases of copyrighted works for research.
  • Sharing articles and other materials with colleagues.
  • Developing digital libraries.
  • Placing copies on library reserves.

The Fair Use Checklist and variations on it have been widely used for many years to help educators, librarians, lawyers, and many other users of copyrighted works determine whether their activities are within the limits of fair use under U.S. copyright law (Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act). Fair use is determined by a balanced application of four factors set forth in the statute: (1) the purpose of the use; (2) the nature of the work used; (3) the amount of substantiality of the work used; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the work used. Those factors form the structure of this checklist. Congress and courts have offered some insights into the specific meaning of the factors, and those interpretations are reflected in the details of this form.

Benefits of the Checklist: A proper use of this checklist should serve two purposes. First, it should help you to focus on factual circumstances that are important in your evaluation of fair use. The meaning and the scope of fair use depends on the particular facts of a given situation, and changing one or more facts may alter the analysis. Second, the checklist can provide an important mechanism to document your decision-making process. Maintaining a record of your fair use analysis can be critical for establishing good faith; consider adding to the checklist the current date and notes about your project. Keep completed checklists on file for future reference.

Disclaimer: Westminster College makes every effort to insure the accuracy of this information but DOES NOT offer it as counsel or legal advice. Consult an attorney for advice concerning your specific situation.

Directions: Enter the information requested in each field inside the box. Then under each heading, check each factor favoring AND opposing Fair Use as they apply to your circumstances. When complete, click "submit." This will send a copy of the completed form to the email provided and also generate a printer-friendly version.


Email Address:




Prepared by:

Purpose & Character of Use

Favoring Fair Use

Teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use)



Nonprofit educational institution



News Reporting

Transformative or productive use (creates a new work with a new purpose)

Restricted access (to students in a course)

Opposing Fair Use

Commercial activity

Profiting from the use


Bad-faith behavior (intentionally misleading or deceptive uses)

Denying credit to original author

Other non-critical, non-commentary use

Nature of the Copyrighted Work

Favoring Fair Use

Published Work

Factual or nonfiction based

Important to favored educational objectives
Opposing Fair Use

Unpublished Work

Highly creative work (art, music, novels, films, plays)


Amount & Substantiality of the Portion Used

Favoring Fair Use

Proportionately small excerpt, extract, or clip

Portion used is not central - the heart of - or significant to entire work

Amount is appropriate for favored educational purpose
Opposing Fair Use

Large portion or whole work used

Portion used is central to or "heart of the work"

Effect on the Potential Market for or Value of the Work

Favoring Fair Use

User owns lawfully purchased or acquired copy of original work

One or few copies made

No significant effect on the market or potential market for copyrighted work

No similar product marketed by the copyright holder

Lack of licensing mechanism

Use stimulates market for original work
Opposing Fair Use

Could replace sale of copyrighted work

Significantly impairs the market or potential market for copyrighted work or derivative

Reasonably available licensing mechanism for use of the copyrighted work

Reasonably affordable permission available for using work

Numerous copies made

You made it accessible on the Web or other public forum

Long-term use

(Adapted from work by the Copyright Advisory Office at Columbia University Libraries. Kenneth D. Crews, Director. Http://copyright.columbia.edu)