Skip to main content



Fair Use is a limitation on the exclusive rights held by the copyright holder as stated in Section 107 of The United States Copyright Act. Fair use of a copyrighted work permits the work to be used for the purposes of: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research.

However, to determine if the use of the work is fair, an individual must weigh the following four factors:

  • Purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

Title 17, The Copyright Act – Section 107

A.A.W.S. copyrights are held in trust for A.A. as a whole. A.A.W.S. has a responsibility to protect these valuable A.A. assets both in terms of content and preserving the integrity of the A.A. message. In order to meet this responsibility, A.A.W.S. must ensure that A.A.’s copyrights remain undiminished by infringing activities. Further, as a practical matter, and in order to meet such responsibility, blanket or non-specific permission is not granted.

Any request that does not fit within the parameters of the listed conditions and guidelines should be directed to the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous. Contact [email protected] to obtain a “Request for Permission to Reprint” form.

Some uses of A.A. copyrighted literature and other copyrighted A.A. materials are considered “fair use” by A.A.W.S. if the following conditions are met:

Use must be for non-fiction commentary, news reporting, parody, summarization or similar. For use in creative/fiction writing, please submit a completed “Request for Permission to Reprint” form. Must not be used for novelty items such as bumper stickers, t-shirts, mugs, greeting cards, etc. as these types of items tend to trivialize the A.A. program. Use must not be commercial (i.e., not for sale) or used in any type of advertising. Use must be on a one-time basis only and not replace a sale of the work or diminish the market for, or value of the work.

Guidelines and Limitations for acceptable use of A.A. Copyrighted Literature and other copyrighted A.A. material:

Individual printing or photocopying of a single copy or a brief excerpt of A.A. literature and/or A.A. material. A single reproduction of a brief excerpt of audio DVDs, CDs, etc. or video works, e.g. film, film clips, public service announcements/PSAs, etc. (up to 10% of the total work or three minutes, whichever is less.) Individual printing or photocopying of a brief excerpt of printed A.A. literature and/or A.A. material from the A.A. Web site

A single reproduction of a brief excerpt portion of audio DVDs, CDs, etc. or video works, e.g. film, film clips, public service announcements/PSAs, etc. (up to 10% of the total work or three minutes, whichever is less) from the A.A. Web site Saving A.A.W.S literature or other A.A. material on a computer hard drive. An entire work of A.A.W.S. copyrighted material must not be posted or/uploaded to any website, online discussion boards or any social media formats, whether A.A. or non-A.A., without written permission from A.A.W.S.


When Is Permission Required?

When an individual intends to use the material repeatedly.
When the material is intended to be used for commercial purposes.
When an individual wants to use a work in its entirety.

No permission to reprint need be submitted to A.A.W.S. if all of the following conditions and guidelines are met:

Text of A.A.W.S. copyrighted literature shall be presented as-is, with no amendments, changes or editing permitted. An educator may make one copy of the following items for purposes of scholarly research, or for use in teaching or preparing to teach a class: one chapter from a book, one article from a periodical, one short essay, one chart/graph (unless otherwise noted). Copying shall not be used to create, replace, or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works. An educator may make multiple copies of A.A. material, not to exceed more than one copy per pupil in the course, provided the amount of material copied is sufficiently brief. Each copy should include the following notice of copyright:

This photocopy was reproduced with the permission of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (A.A.W.S.) for inclusion in a course package. Permission to photocopy this material does not mean that A.A.W.S. has reviewed or approved the contents of this course package, or that A.A. necessarily agrees with the views expressed herein.

Educators are permitted to provide web links to A.A. material on the A.A. Web site


The A.A. Service Manual in the sections “Area Newsletter or Bulletins” provides guidance to A.A. entities regarding the reprinting of Alcoholics Anonymous copyrighted material. The section states:

“Local A.A. publications are permitted to reprint the Steps, Traditions, and/or the Concepts, and to quote a phrase, sentence or brief paragraph excerpted from A.A. literature such as the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, The A.A. Service Manual and Conference-approved pamphlets without a prior, written request to do so. When this occurs, the proper credit line should be included to ensure that the copyrights of A.A. literature are protected. After a quotation from a book or pamphlet, the credit line should read: Reprinted from (name of publication, page number), with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.”


Additional information regarding what material can and cannot be used within the A.A. Fellowship that would not constitute an infringement of A.A.’s copyrighted material is provided in the following Frequently Asked Questions:

Who owns the copyrights to A.A. Conference-approved literature?
A.A.W.S. holds the copyrights of A.A. material in trust for A.A. as a whole.

Do we have to formally request permission to reprint A.A. literature?
As a general rule no one has the authority to reproduce A.A. Conference-approved literature without prior written permission from A.A.W.S.  However, given the nature of our Fellowship, our experience indicates that A.A. groups and entities, and only A.A. groups and entities, should have the authority to reproduce limited amounts of A.A. Conference-approved material. In no case should this material be amended or modified.

Can we upload an A.A. Conference-approved book or pamphlet to our local A.A. Web site?
A.A. entities are permitted to provide web links to A.A. Conference-approved literature on instead of uploading.

Can we print a copy of A.A. material from
If the material is in HTML, it can be printed.  Some PDFs, including most service material, may also be printed.

Can we include brief excerpts from A.A. material in a mobile app?
Permission to reprint A.A. material must be obtained by contacting the Publishing Department at [email protected]. Additionally A.A. material should represent only a small segment of material in the entire mobile app.

Can we obtain a license from A.A. to include an entire publication in a mobile app?
No, A.A.W.S. does not issue licenses to reproduce its copyrighted material on mobile apps, etc.

Can you give us a few other examples of requests for which G.S.O. does not grant permission?
A.A.W.S. does not grant permission to reprint A.A. material on novelty items such as bumper stickers, t-shirts, mugs, greeting cards, etc., as these types of items tend to trivialize the A.A. program.

What is the copyright status of the Big Book?
The First and Second Editions of the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, are in the public domain in the United States only.  The Third and Fourth Editions remain copyright protected worldwide, including the United States.  Given that the Internet is a worldwide medium, permission must be requested from A.A.W.S. for all Internet postings of all editions of the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous.

Can I reprint excerpts on a daily basis from A.A. material and distribute them electronically?
A.A.W.S. does not grant permission for anyone to continuously reprint excerpts of A.A. material through the Internet or electronic devices, etc.

Do I need permission to reprint the Serenity Prayer and the St. Francis Prayer?
As the Serenity Prayer and the St. Francis Prayer are not copyrighted by A.A.W.S., A.A.W.S. cannot grant or deny reprint permission.

Where can I find information regarding the use of A.A.’s trademarks?
On the A.A. Web site,, in the section entitled “Intellectual Property Policies” and see in The A.A. Service Manual, under the section entitled “Trademarks, Logos, and Copyrights.”

Can we use the “blue people” graphic from the home page of on our local A.A. web site?
This graphic is copyrighted and is an image specific to, A.A.W.S., and the General Service Office that serves the U.S. and Canada. Therefore, A.A. does not grant permission to use the “blue people” graphic on goods or services not provided by A.A. World Services, Inc.

Can A.A. entities use pamphlet cover graphics?
Yes, A.A. entities have permission to reprint thumbnail or larger-sized graphics of A.A. pamphlet covers for A.A. purposes only.  Place the copyright symbol © next to the graphic and include the following credit line: The above graphic is [graphics are] used with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.

If your specific concern is not addressed in this A.A.W.S. Fair Use Guidelines, you may wish to direct your question to the G.S.O. Intellectual Properties desk.

For information on A.A. Grapevine’s Copyright and Reprint Policy, see The A.A. Service Manual, under the section entitled “General Guidelines for Reprinting Art and Articles from the A.A. Grapevine,” or

Stay Connected!

Sign up for our SLVRSTRK Newsletter delivered straight to your inbox!