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Copyright and fair use

Issuance Date: July 9, 2015


To fulfill its teaching, research, and public service mission, it is the policy of the University of California to encourage the broad dissemination and use of information in accordance with copyright law. The University will defend its employees who use copyrighted materials in an informed, reasonable, and good faith manner, and within the scope of their University employment.


Faculty, staff, and students of the University of California use materials created by others for teaching, learning, research, or public service. The University encourages the appropriate use of such materials within the scope of copyright law.

As described in the U.S. Constitution, the purpose of copyright is to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” Copyright owners are granted certain exclusive rights to their works for a limited time, including the right to reproduce, modify, distribute, display, and publicly perform their works. Because these rights are exclusive, such creators may prohibit others from using their works without permission in many circumstances.

Copyright law in the U.S. includes a number of exceptions to copyright owners’ exclusive rights. The most flexible of these exceptions is “fair use.” Fair use allows people and organizations to reproduce, modify, distribute, display, and publicly perform works created by others in certain circumstances and for certain purposes, including criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. In addition to the purpose and character of the proposed use, fair use requires consideration of the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion of the original work used, and the effect of the use upon the potential market for (or value of) the copyrighted work.

Determining whether fair use applies can be complex and is generally handled on a case-by-case basis. The University will provide general guidance and resources for faculty and others to aid their understanding of copyright and help them follow the law.

Members of the University community are encouraged to review the copyright and fair use guidelines available on the University’s copyright website, among other resources, and to contact their campus librarians, campus counsel office, or the Office of General Counsel if further advice is needed.

In the unlikely event of a copyright infringement claim, the University will defend its employees who acted within the scope of their University employment and who made use of the copyrighted work at issue in an informed, reasonable, and good faith manner. The University will do so to the greatest extent provided under the relevant laws and policies.

The University believes that the right of all employees and students to access and share copyrighted works within the scope of the fair use doctrine is paramount for the promotion of academic freedom, creative expression, education and instruction, and ultimately, the full participation by all members of society in furthering the pursuit of knowledge. The University encourages respect for the rights of copyright owners as well as the thoughtful invocation of fair use principles within the bounds set forth in copyright law to support those goals.

Full text of the policy in PDF format