Permissions and Fair Use

Please note, this is intended as a quick resource for authors. Nothing on this page should be considered legal advice from O’Reilly. You should consult with an experienced IP attorney if you have any questions about including third-party content in your work.

What Is Fair Use?

Under U.S. Copyright Law, fair use permits the use of copyright-protected content without permission in limited circumstances. Essentially, authors may be able to reuse small amounts of third-party material (meaning, someone else’s material) provided they can be considered fair use.

How Is Fair Use Determined?

Fair use is a common defense for using very small amounts of material from another source, such as a quote or line of code. But please be aware, there’s no exact legal standard—no word count or percentage.

For your use to be considered fair use:

Some Tips on Permission

You should treat third-party permissions requests consistently. If you ask for permission to reuse a one-paragraph excerpt from one party, it’s appropriate to ask for permission for all other similar-sized excerpts.

If you believe your use is fair use, our suggestion would be not to ask permission for the quoted content. If you request permission but your request is declined—or even if you receive no response at all—it would be difficult for you to claim fair use once you’ve already requested permission.

Some open-source and Creative Commons licenses may not allow you to reuse content in an O’Reilly product, since we require broad rights to publish and distribute our content. Please review all licenses carefully before deciding to use third-party content.

For more information, we recommend starting with the U.S. Copyright Office’s page on fair use.