The fair use doctrine is recognized under U.S. copyright law and allows certain uses of copyright protected material without first obtaining permission from the copyright holder. It is intended to serve the public good by allowing use of copyright protected materials for comedy, parody, news reporting, research and education. However, it is important to remember that not every use in an academic setting is automatically considered a fair use.
Perfect safety and absolute certainty are extremely rare in copyright law, as in many areas of law, and of life. Rather than sit idle until risk is reduced to zero, institutions often employ “risk management,” a healthy approach to policy making that seeks to enable important projects to go forward despite inevitable uncertainty by identifying possible risks (legal and otherwise) and reducing them to acceptable levels. -- ARL Code of Best Practice for Academic and Research Libraries, p. 10
There are four specific factors which must be taken into account anytime one is intends to defend any particular action as a "fair use." In the event a copyright infringement suit is brought against you, these are the four factors that a copyright judge would assess to determine if the validity of the complaint.
The attached Fair Use Checklist has been prepared to aid you in thinking through your own proposed use(s) and making a determination of how likely (or unlikely) such uses meet the legal standard of being "fair."
A thoughtful analysis of these factors in relation to the desired use is needed in order to make a “good faith” determination of fair use.
There are significant penalties that can be imposed for copyright infringement.
Liability may be reduced in cases of nonprofit educational use if it can be established that an evaluation of these four factors resulted in a reasonable belief that the use was fair.