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Copyright and Fair Use

Printed Materials

Journal Article for Classroom Use

SCENARIO 1: A professor copies one article from a periodical for distribution to the class.

ALLOWED? Yes. Distribution of multiple copies for classroom use is fair use. 

Journal Article for Personal Use

SCENARIO 2: A professor wishes to make a copy of an article from a copyrighted periodical for her files to use later.

ALLOWED? Yes. This is a classic example of personal fair use so long as the professor uses the article for her personal files and reference.

Posting Copyrighted Article to Web Page

 A professor has posted his class notes on a web page available to the public. He wants to scan an article from a copyrighted journal and add it to his web page.

ALLOWED? No, if access is open to the public, then this use is probably not a fair use. If access to the web page is restricted, then it is more likely to be fair use.

Uploading an Article from the Library to Moodle

SCENARIO 4: An instructor wants her students to read an article from a peer-reviewed article. She accesses the full text of the article as a PDF through the library's databases, saves it to her computer and uploads it to Moodle for students to download.

ALLOWED? It depends. Since the instructor obtained the article from a library-licensed electronic resource she needs to understand general limitations and restrictions on use that may be contained in the license agreement between the publisher and the library. The terms of such license agreements control how the materials may be used. Whenever possible, instructors should make articles available to students through direct links to the library's database.

Posting Readings

SCENARIO 5: An instructor scans excerpts from journals, textbooks, and various other sources and creates PDF files of all of the readings. The instructor places all the readings online in Moodle.

ALLOWED? The instructor must conduct a four-factor analysis for each journal article, each textbook section, and any other work she wishes to include in Moodle. Only those items falling under fair use should be uploaded to Moodle.


SCENARIO 6: A textbook hasn't arrived for the first week of the term. The professor wishes to place the first chapter online for her students to read.

ALLOWED? Yes. A single chapter from a textbook is most likely fair use, especially when access is restricted to the students in a course. Copying more than one chapter may not be fair.


SCENARIO 7: A professor wishes to use a textbook he considers to be too expensive. He makes copies of the book for the class.

ALLOWED? No. Although the use is educational, by providing entire copies to his students, the professor is clearly interfering with the marketing monopoly of the copyright owner. The professor should place a copy on reserve in the library or require the students to purchase the book.


Public Domain Materials

SCENARIO 8: A teacher copies a Shakespearian play from a copyrighted anthology.

ALLOWED? Yes. The play is in the public domain and not subject to copyright protection.

Out-of-Print Book

SCENARIO 9: A library has a book that is out of print and unavailable. The book is an important one in the professor's field that she needs for her research. The professor would like to copy the book for her files.

ALLOWED? Yes. This is another example of personal use. If one engages in the fair use analysis, one finds that: (1) the purpose of the use is educational versus commercial; (2) the professor is using the book, a creative work, for research purposes; (3) copying the entire book would normally exceed the bounds of fair use, however, since the book is out of print and no longer available from any other source, the copying is acceptable; (4) finally, the copying will have no impact on the market for the book because the book is no longer available from any other source.


SCENARIO 10: Using the same facts as explained in SCENARIO 9 could the professor copy the book and place the book on reserve in the library?

ALLOWED? The professor can place the book on reserve in the library if there is a pedagogical purpose for students in a course to read the book and no other available title can take its place.

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Scenarios based on those found on Omaha Public Schools' "Copyright Guide for Educators." Used with permission.
Documents icon designed by Alex Auda Samora from the Noun Project


Classroom Presentation

SCENARIO 14: A teacher or student prepares and gives a presentation that displays photographs. Permission was not obtained to use the photographs.

ALLOWED? Yes. Section 110(1) of U.S. Copyright Law allows instructors and students to perform and display copyrighted works as part of their educational projects or presentations for instruction in a classroom setting. There is no need to do a fair use anlysis for this.

CAVEAT: The copyrighted works must be legally obtained.

Transmission of Classroom Presentation

What if the presentation incorporating the photographs discussed in SCENARIO 14 is uploaded to Blackboard or broadcast to a distant classroom?

ALLOWED? Yes. This use would be considered fair use, as long as the presentation has a pedagogical purpose and access is restricted to students currently enrolled in the course.

Videotaping of Classroom Presentation

What if the instructor's or student's presentation explained in SCENARIO 14 is videotaped?

ALLOWED? Yes. This use would be considered fair use, if the videotape is used for educational purposes such as student review or if the videotape is for instruction.

CAVEAT: Students' privacy must be considered; releases should be obtained for use outside the original classroom.

Use of Music as Background in Classroom Presentation

SCENARIO 15: A teacher or student creates a presentation and incorporates copyrighted music into the background. Assume that permission was not obtained to use the music for the presentation. Can the music be included in the teacher's or student's presentation?

ALLOWED? It depends. If the music has a pedagogical purpose, it may be incorporated into the presentation. Music included in a presentation to "set the mood" or purely for aesthetic purposes should generally not be used without permission.

CAVEAT: Use only the amount needed for the pedagogical purpose.

Use of Music as Content in Classroom Presentation

SCENARIO 16: A professor teaches an opera course, and the professor creates a presentation. The presentation contains the works of ten contemporary artists and is presented to a new class every semester.

ALLOWED? Yes, as long as the use of the presentation continues to have a pedagogical purpose.

CAVEAT: Use only the amount needed for the pedagogical purpose.

Transmission of Presentation with Use of Music as Content or Background

The opera classroom presentation (SCENARIO 16) or the presentation containing background music (SCENARIO 15) is uploaded to Moodle or transmitted to a distant classroom.

ALLOWED? Yes, so long as access is restricted to students currently enrolled in the course.

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Scenarios based on those found on Omaha Public Schools' "Copyright Guide for Educators." Used with permission.
Multimedia icon designed by Patrick Morrison from the Noun Project