Fair use is a doctrine in the law of the United States that permits limited use of copyrighted material without having to first acquire permission from the copyright holder. Fair use is the most significant limitation on the copyright holder's rights. Deciding whether the use of a work is fair IS NOT a science. There are no set guidelines that are universally accepted. Instead, the individual who wants to use a copyrighted work must weigh four factors:
The purpose and character of the use:
The nature of the copyrighted work:
The amount and substantiality of the portion used:
The effect of use on the potential market for the copyrighted work:
This is the factor that has changed how fair use is interpreted by publishers and by the courts. For example, the ability to easily find publishers addresses and copyright contact information on the internet, means that the "one semester without permission rule" is much more strongly enforced, and taken much more seriously by the courts. Another example, the ability to sell electronic copies of material over the internet means that publishers see almost any use as impinging on all potential markets.
Copying by teachers must meet the tests of brevity and spontaneity:
According to the rule, the need to copy should occur closely in time to the need to use the copies. This is often referred to as the one semester rule. If you use something for one semester only it is likely to be seen as fair use. If you use something repeatedly, it is less likely to be considered fair use. The expectation is that you will obtain permission as soon as possible. Using something over a period of years is not within the spirit of the guideline.
The use of any copies should be for one course at one school.
The copies should include a notice of copyright acknowledging the author of the work.
NOTE: It is recommended that teachers, faculty, or instructors consider both the special guidelines for instructor and take into account the four factors that are used to evaluate fair use when they are deciding what and how much of a copyrighted work to use.