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Research Guides@Tufts

Multimedia Production Guide

for the Digital Design Studio at Tisch Library

Fair Use

Fair Use is built into the copyright law to address the tensions between the rights given to the copyright holder and freedom of speech.  If you want to use copyrighted material without requesting permission from the copyright holder, you must engage in a four factor Fair Use analysis. 

1) Purpose and character of the use

  • Is your use a non-profit educational use?
  • Is it "transformative"?  Does your use add "new meaning, expression, or message" to the original copyrighted work (Gerhardt and Wessel 59)?

2) Nature of the copyrighted work

  • Is the original creative or more factual in nature?  Using creative works is considered less fair than more factual works.
  • Is the work unpublished or widely published?  Using unpublished works is considered less fair than widely published works.

3) Amount

  • Is the amount appropriate to the use? 
  • Did you use just what was necessary to get your point across?

4) Market Impact

  • Would the original copyright holder be negatively impacted by your use?
  • Is there a market to license the use?

Aufderheide and Jaszi, in their book Reclaiming Fair Use, argue that while you need to ask yourself all four questions to conduct a Fair Use analysis, the courts have shown they are most interested in the answers to the following three questions (24).

  • Is your use transformative?
  • Is the amount you are using of the original copyrighted work appropriate to your use? 
  • Is your use consistent with the norms of your community?

Tufts' policy is that it is up to you to decide if the use of the images may be fair or not based on the Four Factor analysis, however, help is available!  Contact Martha Kelehan (; 617-627-2092) with your questions.

Creative Commons

The Creative Commons (CC) can be a great tool for copyright holders and individuals seeking copyrighted materials to work with.  Copyright holders who want people to use their work can choose among a number of different licenses (from just attribution to attribution-non-commercial-no derivatives).  And for people looking to work with copyrighted materials without having to do a Fair Use analysis (search Flickr for Creative Commons images), the Creative Commons can be a great solution to use and re-use creative work.


For questions about copyright and/or fair use, contact a Research Librarian.