University of California, Riverside

C&C Copyright



Fair Use Guidelines for Digital Reproduction


Because there is no ironclad definition of what constitutes fair use of copyrighted mateirals, it is useful to keep some rules of thumb in mind when reproducing copyrighted works. The four factors to consider when determining compliance with the principles of fair use, from section 107 of the Copyright Law of the United States, are as follows:

  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.

Factor 1: The purpose and character of the use. In general, materials posted for use on iLearn will satisfy this section of the fair use guidelines, as iLearn is by its nature for nonprofit educational purposes.

Factor 2: The nature of a copyrighted work. Reproducing works of fact is generally more likely to fall under fair use guidelines, as opposed to creative work. This does not mean that it is unacceptable to reproduce creative works, but it does mean that it is more difficult to prove fair use of such works.

Factor 3: The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. A good starting point in determining how much of a document may be reproduced and still fall under fair use guidelines is the 10% guideline:

  • Motion Media: 10 percent or 3 minutes, whichever is less
  • Text: 10 percent or 1000 words, whichever is less
  • Music: 10 percent of individually copyrighted musical composition, or 10 percent of the composition embodied on a sound recording. No more than 30 seconds.
  • Illustrations and Photographs: Entire photographs or illustrations may be used, but no more than 5 works from any one artist or photographer or no more than 10 percent or 15 images from any compilation of images, whichever is less.
  • Numerical Data Sets: Up to 10 percent or 2,500 fields or cell entries, whichever is less.
Factor 4: The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Because iLearn is time-limited and password-protected, it is unlikely that any posting of copyrighted works on iLearn would have any effect on the market for or value of the work, so long as the other guidelines have been followed.

It is important to keep in mind that these four factors must be balanced against eachother; it may be possible to establish fair use even if one factor is not fully satisfied, providing the other factors are satisfied. Determining fair use is always an exercise in common sense. Thus, it is always best to err on the side of caution when dealing with copyrighted works, and it is always best to obtain specific permission before reproducing copyrighted works on iLearn.

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Copyright Support
Computing &Communications Bldg.

Tel: (951) 827-4741
Fax: (951) 827-4541
E-mail: cncwebmaster@ucr.edu

Footer