Copyright, Fair Use, and the Library

Learn about Fair Use

The following guidelines are based on U.S. Copyright law which differs from those of other countries. There are not set or hard numbers (i.e. 5% of a video) for Fair Use practices as it is open to individual interpertation. The guidelines below are a starting point and a Fair Use chart, checklist, or calculator should also be consulted.

Fair Use for Educators Guidelines

General Guidelines

There are no set rules for the amount of a work used when evaluating fair use. The following guidelines are based on the minimum standards established under Section 107 of H.R. 2223 by the Ad Hoc Committee on Copyright Law Revision.

Guidelines for single copying of books and periodicals

  •  A chapter from a book, that is not more than 1,000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less.
  •  An article from any issue of a periodical or newspaper that is less than 2,500 words.
  •  A short story, short essay or short poem as long as it is less than 250 words and no more than two pages in length
  • One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture per book or periodical issue.
  • One chapter, one article or several charts, graphs or illustrations from course packs

Guidelines for multiple copies for classroom use

  • Not to exceed more than one copy per pupil per course.
  • No more than three articles, stories or essays from the same collective work or periodical during the same class term
  • No more than fifteen images from a copyrighted work
  • Each copy should include a notice of copyright
  • Copying shall not be a substitute for the intended purpose of textbooks, publishers’ reprints or periodicals
  • There shall be no copying of or from works such as workbooks, exercises, standardized tests and test booklets, answer sheets, etc. that are intended to be used in the course of study or teaching.
  • Copying shall not be used to create or substitute for anthologies or collective works.

Multimedia Guidelines
The faculty may display or perform portions of various copyrighted media, such as movies clips, music, text materials and images into their teaching or assignment for a specific course under the guidelines listed below (These guidelines were created based on the report to the Commissioner on the conclusion of The Conference on Fair Use):
  • Using Movie or film clips from copyrighted motion media up to ten percent of the total length or three minutes, whichever is less
  • Using music, lyrics or musical video from copyrighted musical work up to ten percent of the work but no more than thirty seconds of individual musical work
  • Using photographs and illustrations from a published collective work up to 10% or not more than five images from one artist or photographer.
  • No more than two copies of educational multimedia projects may be made that including the original copy of work. Only one copy of the project may be placed on reserve.
  • Image digitization is for spontaneous use in teaching activities and doesn't preserve as part of the institution's image collection. 
  • If used under fair use guidelines, copyrighted materials can be used in a multimedia project for two years without permission. After two years, permission is required in order to reuse in the multimedia project.

Music Guidelines

The following guidelines were developed and approved in April 1976 by the Music Publishers’ Association of the United States, Inc., the National Music Publishers’ Association, Inc., the Music Teachers National Association, the Music Educators National Conference, the National Association of Schools of Music, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Copyright Law Revision.

  • Emergency copying to replace purchased copies which for any reason are not available for an imminent performance provided purchased replacement copies shall be substituted in due course.
  • For academic purposes other than performance, single or multiple copies of excerpts of works may be made, provided that the excerpts do not comprise a part of the whole which would constitute a performable unit such as a section¹, movement or aria, but in no case more than 10 percent of the whole work. The number of copies shall not exceed one copy per pupil.²
  • Printed copies which have been purchased may be edited or simplified provided that the fundamental character of the work is not distorted or the lyrics, if any, altered or lyrics added if none exist.
  • A single copy of recordings of performances by students may be made for evaluation or rehearsal purposes and may be retained by the educational institution or individual teacher.
  • A single copy of a sound recording (such as a tape, disc, or cassette) of copyrighted music may be made from sound recordings owned by an educational institution or an individual teacher for the purpose of constructing aural exercises or examinations and may be retained by the educational institution or individual teacher. (This pertains only to the copyright of the music itself and not to any copyright which may exist in the sound recording.)

Prohibited from copying for educational use of music

  • Copying to create or replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works.
  • Copying of or from works intended to he “consumable” in the course of study or of teaching such as workbooks, exercises, standardized tests and answer sheets and like material.
  • Copying for the purpose of performance, except as in A(1) above.
  • Copying for the purpose of substituting for the purchase of music, except as in A(1) and A(2) above.
  • Copying without inclusion of the copyright notice which appears on the printed copy.

When is permission required?

When using the work of others you must first determine if copyright permission is required. If a work is in the public domain, then you can use it legally without permission from the copyright owner. If the work is protected by copyright law, you should consider the following:

  • Is it available through a library subscription?
  • Is it available under a Creative Commons(CC) License or other open access resource such as OpenCourseWare?
  • Can the item be used due to a copyright exemption, i.e. the TEACH Act or Classroom Use exemptions?
  • Is the intended use a fair use?
  • If the work is not in the public domain and does not meet the criteria for fair use or another specific exception in the copyright law, permission must be obtained from the copyright holder. Permission is required under the following conditions:
    • The intention is to use the same materials from semester to semester.
    • The intended use requires the use of the entire work or the "heart of the work".
    • The intention is to use the same materials for more than one course.
    • The intention is to cite copyrighted materials in any published work scholarly or otherwise.

Providing links to documents versus uploading

When an instructor downloads a full-text document for students and posts it online, they risk violating copyright. An alternative to uploading full-text documents, images, or streaming media to a web page or Canvas is to provide students with permalink to library resources. Please note that licenses generally prohibit downloading content onto another server, even for use in a Moodle course site or when placing an item on E-Reserve.

Before posting copyrighted works, or portions of such works as course content in electronic form, instructors must:

  • Check that the use qualifies as a fair use or another exemptions
  • Is available through a library subscription or
  • Obtain permission from the copyright owner. 

For more information about linking to library resources, visit the guide below.