What best practices should I follow when incorporating copyrighted material in my dissertation or thesis under Fair Use?

Our answer:

If, after working through the steps outlined in FAQ 2.1, you determine that your use of a copyright work falls under Fair Use, consider the following:

  1. Use the Fair Use Checklist to assess each copyrighted work you wish to include under Fair Use. Keep copies of completed checklists to document your Fair Use assessments.
  2. Review the Codes of Best Practices available on the Center for Media & Social Impact website. These codes contain detailed best practices for exercising Fair Use in different disciplines and for different kinds of copyrighted works (e.g., Journalism, Media Studies, Communication, Poetry, etc.).
  3. Ensure that any copyrighted materials you incorporate under Fair Use are integral to your argument. If a copyrighted work is the subject of sustained criticism or commentary, such that readers would have difficulty understanding your argument if the work were omitted, then the use is more likely to be fair. However, using a copyright work for aesthetic or illustrative purposes is less likely to qualify as Fair Use.
  4. Incorporate copyrighted materials at the smallest size or resolution necessary to make your scholarly argument. For example, large images may be best or even required to illustrate small background elements or obscure details, but in other instances, smaller reference images may suffice.
  5. Provide attributions to the copyright owners of the copyrighted materials (and any works depicted in the images), where known. Although not legally required under fair use, attributions may help demonstrate a user’s good faith in adhering to the broader scholarly traditions of providing citations when using others’ works (which traditions are especially strong in the context of publications).