This is the "Four Factors" page of the "Copyright Basics" guide.
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Copyright Basics  

Basic information on copyright and copyright law.
Last Updated: Feb 6, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Four Factors Print Page

Four factors the law

The four facotrs are not meant to be exlusive and must be examined together, and not in isolation, in light of the purpose of the copypright laws.

The statute does not indicate how much weight is to be accorded each factor, but the courts have generally placed the most emphasis on the last factor, the effect of the use upon the potential market for the copyrighted work or its value, while  the nature of the copyrighted work has been said to be the leae important and most unclear of the four factors.

18 Am.Jur.2d 427 (2004)


What are the four factors?

The Fair Use Four Factor Test is the standard for determining fair use.

All four factors must be applied to each use and all factors must be weighed, or balanced, for a final judgment of fair. Copyright is balance, seeking a reasonable use for the person who does not have exclusive rights to use the copyrighted work, and protecting the copyright holder's interest and contributions, and incentive for future works.

Applying the fair use test provides the balance between creators and users.

There are four factors that must be considered and balanced.

  • Purpose and character of the use
    • Favorable use: teaching, research, scholarship, non-profit, criticism, parody, comment, news reporting, transforming use, employing restricted access
    • Not favorable: verbatim copying, profitable use, entertainment, bad-faith behavior, commercial use
  • Nature of the work
    • Favorable use: published work, factual or nonfiction work, clear educational objectives germane to the your use of the work
    • Less favorable, more protected: Unpublished work, highly creative work, fiction
  • Amount and substantiality of work used
    • Favorable use: small quantity in relation to whole, the portion used is not central or significant to entire work, is not considered the heart of the work, amount is appropriate for educational purpose
    • Not favorable: large portion used, the portion used is central, significant, and considered the heart of the work
  • Effect of the use on the market or potential market value of the work
    • Favorable use: work is lawfully acquired, one or few copies are made, no significant effect on the market or potential market for the copyrighted work, lack of licensing mechanisms, lack of permissions market
    • Not favorable: replacement for or circumvention of the purchase of the copyrighted work, significantly affects the market or potential market value of the copyrighted work or its derivative work, licensing mechanisms are an option, permissions-market is strong, many copies are made, copy is made electronically accessible, repeated long-term use. Includes out of print and unpublished works that could have potential market value.

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