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Copyright: Fair Use

A guide to inform faculty and students about copyright, fair use, and more.

Help from the Library

The library is dedicated to supporting Gonzaga University's educational endeavors, but our ability to provide copyright assistance is restricted by university policies and certain limitations. Before proceeding to the section on fair use, please review the information in this box. 

How we can Help

The library offers educational sessions for individuals or groups to learn the fundamentals of copyright, fair use principles, and how to find licensed resources for teaching and research purposes.


The library does not take responsibility for ensuring that the work created by university departments, employees, or students complies with copyright laws. If you have questions about works you create and copyright compliance, please contact Gonzaga's Office of General Counsel. 

Additionally, the library does not have the authority to penalize or take action against individuals or departments for creating work that does not comply with copyright laws. 

Lastly, we can teach you how to conduct a fair use evaluation but have no authority to conduct one on your behalf. If you are not comfortable conducting your own fair use evaluation, then we advise that you use the copying guidelines that are noted in the university's copyright policy.

University Polices 
er the Gonzaga University Copyright Policy, it is the responsibility of all Gonzaga employees to "adhere to the copyright law, fair use guidelines, licenses or contractual agreements, or other permissions."

What is Fair Use?

The Copyright Act gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute their work. One exception to this exclusive right is called "the fair use exception." The fair use exception permits the reproduction of a portion of a copyrighted work without the copyright owner's permission, under certain circumstances.

This exception is essential for education, because it allows students, scholars, and critics to use and cite copyrighted works in their own research, teaching, and reviews.

Fair Use Evaluation

Fair use is a legal right that allows you to use copyrighted material without permission for certain purposes, like education, criticism, and news reporting.

These "four factors" are considered in all fair use evaluations. They are:

1. The purpose and character of the use

This factor considers whether the use is transformative, meaning that it adds new meaning or expression to the original work, or whether it is merely a copy. Uses that are transformative, such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, are more likely to be considered fair use.

2. The nature of the copyrighted work

This factor considers whether the copyrighted work is factual or creative. Factual works, such as news articles or textbooks, are more likely to be considered fair use than creative works, such as novels or paintings.

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used

This factor considers how much of the copyrighted work was used and whether the portion used was significant or essential to the original work. Smaller amounts of material or less significant portions are more likely to be considered fair use.

4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

This factor considers whether the use will harm the potential market for the original work or diminish its value. If the use is likely to replace sales of the original work or make it less valuable, it is less likely to be considered fair use.

Make a good faith fair use evaluation of any copyrighted material that you wish to redistribute online or in the classroom. If you do not reasonably believe your proposed use passes the four factor test, you should consider alternative content strategies, or obtain permission to use the material in your teaching. 

For help in making a fair use evaluation, please see the links below. 


As an instructor, I intend to incorporate chapter scans from two specific books into my Canvas course. These scans will be derived from the following books:

  1. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 of Herman Melville's Moby Dick which was published in 1854.
  2. Chapters 13 and 19 of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces which was published in 1980.

Checking the ALA's Digital Copyright Slider, I confirm that Melville's Moby Dick is in the public domain. Additionally, the library's catalog reveals a first edition copy from 1854. This means I can freely scan and post chapters or the entire book for my Canvas course.

Following the same steps for Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, I determine that Toole's book is still under copyright protections. So, if I intend to scan book chapters and post them on Canvas, it is advisable to utilize the ALA's Fair Use Evaluator and conduct a fair use evaluation.

My Fair Use Evaluation

I intend for my students to analyze chapters 13 and 19 of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, employing a literary criticism rubric. I intend to scan these chapters and post to my course on Canvas, making them freely available to my students. These chapters are often regarded as the crux of Toole's masterpiece. This work of fiction, imbued with creative expression, is readily available for purchase from various sources, including the campus bookstore.

Using the ALA's Fair Use evaluator I conduct a good faith fair use evaluation of my intended use. My results indicate that my use would not support the notion of fair use, as expressed in the statute. If I want my students to read both chapters, I should pursue other access options like checking the library catalog to see if they have a licensed eBook available, have the print version of Toole's book placed on course reserves, or require my students to purchase the book.

Cornell University's Copyright and Public Domain Chart

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