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Creative Commons

Getting to Know Fair Use

Public Domain Mark Fair Use Icon in banner, by Óðinn, identified by Wikimedia, is free of known copyright restrictions.

Limitations & exceptions allow the public to use content without permission. In many countries these include permission for parody, criticism, access for visually impaired, and libraries. Many educational and classroom use falls under fair use, but there are many use cases that can be fair.

 Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.

Four factors for determining fair use eligibility:

Purpose and character of use 

Is the use intended for non-profit or educational purposes?

Nature of the copyrighted work 

Is the work more creative, imaginative, or factual?

Amount and substantiality of work

How much of the work is used? Is the heart of the work used?

Potential effect on the market

Does the use harm future or existing market potential?



The application of a creative commons license does not impact the limitations and exceptions that apply to copyright, such as fair use. In other words, if the use of material is deemed fair use — for example if you use it for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, it is not an infringement of copyright — a CC license does not change that exception. If it is permitted by copyright, it is permitted with CC licensed materials.