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Fair use is the legal doctrine stating that portions of copyrighted material may be published without the permission of the copyright holder, provided the use is fair and reasonable and does not substantially impair the value of the material and does not curtail the profits reasonably expected by the owner. The four factors in determining fair use are:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is commercial or for nonprofit educational purposes. (The purposes most appropriate for fair use are criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.)

2. The nature of the copyrighted work (works of fantasy, artistic creation, or fiction have a broader scope of protection than factual works).

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole (assessed from both a qualitative and quantitative perspective).

4. The effect of the alleged "fair use" upon the potential market value of the copyrighted work (which may be assessed not only from the standpoint of the effect of the use on future sales of a work but also on the ability of the owner of the work to license it for use by others).

Short quotations from prose works are as a general rule fair use. If an article borrows heavily from one source, it may be necessary to get permission of the copyright holder.

Quotations from poems and songs require more caution, and such use should be referred to the legal office.

Try to work authorship into the body of the text. Otherwise use a footnote.

In all cases where any doubt exists, consult the National Geographic legal office.