Skip Navigation

           Donate Now
Join Now      Sign In

Programs » Fair Use

Fair Use for the Visual Arts

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts

This Code of Best Practices provides visual-arts professionals with a set of principles addressing best practices in the fair use of copyrighted materials. It describes how fair use can be invoked and implemented when using copyrighted materials in scholarship, teaching, museums, archives, and in the creation of art.

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with additional funding from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, CAA completed its initial phase in January 2014 with the publication of Copyright, Permissions, and Fair Use among Visual Artists and the Academic and Museum Visual Arts Communities: An Issues Report. The final Code of Best Practices was published on February 9, 2015.

The Code addresses the following five questions:

  • Analytic Writing: When may scholars and other writers about art invoke fair use to quote, excerpt, or reproduce copyrighted works?
  • Teaching about Art: When may teachers invoke fair use in using copyrighted works to support formal instruction in a range of settings, including online and distance teaching?
  • Making Art: Under what circumstances may artists invoke fair use to incorporate copyrighted material into new artworks in any medium?
  • Museum Uses: When may museums and their staffs invoke fair use in using copyrighted works—including images and text as well as time-based and born-digital material—when organizing exhibitions, developing educational materials (within the museum and online), publishing catalogues, and other related activities?
  • Online Access to Archival and Special Collections: When may such institutions and their staffs invoke fair use to create digital preservation copies and/or enable digital access to copyrighted materials in their collections?

Read the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions about how the Code of Best Practices can be used to evaluate your use of copyrighted materials? Not sure if your use of copyrighted materials falls under the fair use doctrine?
See Frequently Asked Questions

You be the Judge!

Deciding whether or not fair use can be invoked is frequently a matter of judgment. The Code of Best Practices provides ways to evaluate the applicability of fair use in a variety of situations. This section presents several hypothetical scenarios and lets you follow the reasoning behind the decision.

Teaching Tools

Want to teach your students about fair use? CAA has developed a comprehensive set of Teaching Tools, including suggestions for class discussions and assignments, to be used in art and design and history courses, as well as studio art and museum studies courses.
use teaching tools


Infographics are a helpful tool for understanding the basics of fair use, and especially for explaining it to others. This section includes six infographics that focus on different aspects of fair use.


Now that CAA’s Code of Best Practices exists, it is important to share it widely with colleagues and students in the field. Here is a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation that you can use to present the Code at faculty meetings and conferences, with museum colleagues, or in class with students.


American Library Association
Art Libraries Society of North America
Association of Art Museum Curators
Association of College and Research Libraries
Association of Research Libraries
Society of Architectural Historians
Visual Resources Association

Statements of Support

American Alliance of Museums
Association of Art Museum Directors

Still have questions? Please email us at with the subject line “Fair Use.”

CAA’s Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with additional support provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Other Media

YouTube Playlist for CAA Fair Use in the Visual Arts

Articles on CAA's Fair Use