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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Copyright Resources for Music

This guide will point you toward resources to help navigate the complex world of music copyright issues.

About Fair Use

"Fair use" is a phrase used in copyright law to allow for the use of copyrighted materials without obtaining explicit permission from the copyright holder.  It can only be used in certain circumstances and it can often be tricky to figure out whether a situation falls within the bounds of fair use or not. 

Fair use allows for certain uses of copyrighted content without monetary reimbursment or permission from the rights holder. It is an "affirmative defense" meaning a use can only be determined as "fair" by the court after a lawsuit has been filed by a copyright holder.

The types of uses which are outlined in copyright law as being potential examples of fair use are "commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship."

For legal reasons, library staff can not make a fair use judgment for you. In order to determine if your use is fair you must make a judgement from assessing four factors about the work you wish to use and how you wish to use it. These factors are:

  • Purpose and character
  • Nature of the copied work
  • Amount and substantiality
  • Effect upon work's value

Fair Use Checklists & Resources

To help guide your judgement, below is a list of "Fair Use Checklists" to allow you to make a fair use determination.