Skip to Main Content


This guide is intended to help Oxford College students with citation.

What Is Fair Use?

Fair Infographic explaining the four ways to determine fair use, based on the US Copyright Office's four factors for evaluating a question of fair use. 1. Purpose of Use. Nonprofit and transformative uses. Nonprofit educational and noncommercial uses are more likely to be considered fair use. "Transformative" uses are also considered more fair - they should add something new to the work and not act as a substitute for the original. 2. Nature of Work. Factual, published works. Using a creative work is less likely to be considered fair use than using a factual work (i.e. a news piece or technical paper). Use of an unpublished work is also less likely to be considered fair. 3. Amount Used. Less is better. Usage of smaller amounts of copyrighted works are more likely to be considered fair use. If the selection is an important part, or "heart" of the work, however, fair use may not apply. 4. Market Effect. No harm to the original. The selection should not harm the existing or future market for the copyright owner's original work, i.e. by displacing sales. Learn more at is a doctrine under copyright law that permits the use of a copyrighted work under certain circumstances.

While citation and proper attribution protect against plagiarism, fair use protects against copyright infringement - both are important to be aware of when you're using someone else's work.

For more information, check out our Copyright and Fair Use guide.

Some Copyright Basics

Copyright protects original work - i.e. "literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works" (US Copyright Office). It does not protect facts or ideas.

The creator of a work has copyright over the work the moment it is created, even if it is not registered with the US Copyright Office. You will have to register your work to file a lawsuit against another person or group for infringing your copyright, however.