Fair Use

We are happy to discuss copyright and fair use but you may well find that the American Library Association’s Fair Use Evaluator can help you get started on a “fair use” evaluation:


Alternatively, many organizations have written guidelines or best practices to help define fair use for specific audiences or types of content. These best practices provide an important framework for educators, in particular, in the event your decision supporting fair use is questioned by a court of law. American University’s Center for Media & Social Impact has compiled these documents (see CMSI’s Best Practices), or you may link to the document in the list below that is most applicable to your current needs). Topics are bolded for easier identification.


Intellectual Property Crash Course

This six episode miniseries by Crash Course producer Stan Muller explores the complex and persistent issue of intellectual property. This series of educational videos discusses the three major elements of intellectual property: copyright, patents, and trademarks. You can access the entire playlist here or watch the individual videos below:

Crash Course Intellectual Property  #1: Introduction to Intellectual Property

Crash Course Intellectual Property #2: Copyright Basics

Crash Course Intellectual Property #3: Copyright, Exceptions, and Fair Use 

Crash Course Intellectual Property #4: Patents, Novelty, and Trolls

Crash Course Intellectual Property #5: Trademarks and Avoiding Consumer Confusion

Crash Course Intellectual Property #6: International IP Law

Permission Letter Templates

Using Student Work Authorization Form – Use this form if you would like to request permission to use electronic or physical copies of student work.

Model Permission Letters – This site, hosted by Columbia University, has sample permission letters for using copyrighted material in a new work, in a course management system, or online.

Copyright Tutorials

Purdue University and the University of Texas offer exceptional tutorials on copyright issues.

Purdue University’s copyright overview provides answers to common questions such as, “What can be copyrighted?” and “How long does copyright last?” It also explains the three major exceptions to copyright law that are commonly used by educators: fair use, face-to-face instruction, and virtual instruction.

The University of Texas’s copyright crash course also provides an introduction to copyright basics, but goes more in depth about the special set of exemptions from copyright infringement liability that libraries enjoy.


Creative Commons

Why should I consider using a Creative Commons license to publish my work?

Creative Commons (CC) encourages openness and sharing of knowledge. Publish your original content using a CC license, instead of relying on the default “all rights reserved” copyright. Through a choice of six different types of licenses, CC offers a middle ground between public domain status (open to any use or purpose without permission or payment) and full copyright.

All CC licenses are “within the boundaries of copyright law.” The least restrictive license (CC-BY) only requires attribution to the content-creator (referred to as licensor), whereas other combinations address derivative, noncommercial, and share alike (requires derivatives to have the same license as the original) provisions, in addition to attribution. Based on your responses, the CC website will suggest license types and, if needed, provide HTML code that can be added to a webpage.Continue Reading Creative Commons

Content Toolbox

Need images and other media for assignments, teaching materials, and websites? See the list below for ideas on where to find copyrighted content in databases available to you through the University Libraries’ subscriptions. To find content you can share, use, and perhaps modify without worrying about copyright infringement, search in the Creative Commons portal or explore works in the public domain. But remember, scholarly practice requires attribution to the original creator no matter whether the item is protected by copyright law, available under a Creative Commons license, or in the public domain.

Proprietary content available to the George Mason community for use in teaching and student assignments

Art: Online Images

Arts and Sciences: Images

Bioinformatics Images

Biology Images

Specialized Image Collections

Continue Reading Content Toolbox

Copyright FAQs

Looking for a quick answer to a specific question? The Scholarly Communication and Copyright Office’s Frequently Asked Questions might have the answer. If not, please contact us at copyright@gmu.edu or 703-993-2544.

Fair Use | Requesting Permission | File Sharing | Dissertations/Theses

Fair Use

What is fair use?
Fair use is the term used for the limited exception to the exclusive rights granted to an author or creator by copyright law. The fair use doctrine allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the rights holder for certain activities such as research, instruction, criticism, commentary and news reporting.

How do I know if my use of copyrighted material is fair use?
There are several factors that will weigh in favor of fair use, but it is helpful to use a checklist to help you determine if your use is fair or not.

George Mason University Fair Use Checklist
Fair Use Evaluator

Continue Reading Copyright FAQs

Fair Use Evaluation

To help you assess whether your proposed use of copyrighted material is a fair use, complete the online form provided by the Fair Use Evaluator tool. Print out and keep a copy of this time-stamped record, in the event you are asked by a copyright owner or a court of law how you arrived at your decision. Conducting this evaluation after you’ve used the content is not recommended.

Fair Use Evaluator

Fair Use Exceptions for Instructors (for performance and display of copyrighted material in traditional, distance, or blended educational models)

Course Packs

There is no such thing as a “fair use course anthology.” Instructors who choose to create a course pack of required readings for his/her students should conduct a fair use analysis for each item to be included in the pack. Use the Fair Use Evaluator tool to help you determine whether your proposed use is defensible as a fair use. You may also refer to the U.S. Copyright Office’s Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians (PDF) for more specific information, or call the Copyright Office for assistance.

When a proposed use of any copyrighted work appears to go beyond fair use limitations, you may decide to develop a course pack. Please contact Jared Prebish (703-993-3835) with the Mason Bookstore for assistance.