Authors often incorporate existing materials in their works. A historian may excerpt a soldier’s letters to a loved one; an art critic may reproduce a telling detail in a painting; a fiction writer may incorporate quotes from a popular song.

Sometimes, authors need to seek permission or pay for a license to use copyrighted materials. An author may even need a license to use her own works because she signed over her copyrights to her publisher. But not always. In fact, unlicensed use may be legally permitted by virtue of the “fair use” doctrine, a well-known (but oft-misunderstood) limitation to copyright in the United States. Authors are likely to make and benefit from fair uses in every phase of the creative process and long thereafter, but they often find it difficult to know when to rely on fair use and when to seek permission.

Our fair use resources help you make confident fair use decisions so that copyright does not unnecessarily prevent the generation of new cultural material.