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Copyright and Fair Use

Copying and distributing copyrighted materials in the classroom, for in-library or electronic reserves (including World Classroom/Canvas, the university's learning management system) or on the Web

Note: Always include any copyright notice found on the original and appropriate citations and attributions to the source.

Single copies

Multiple Copies

Single copies - Copying and distributing portions of copyrighted works in the classroom or on the Web

SCENARIO: An instructor copies excerpts of documents, including copyrighted textbooks and journals, from various sources to distribute to his face to face class or on a restricted access web page.
GUIDELINE: One must do a fair use analysis of each excerpt.  (See a form here: https://www.lib.umn.edu/copyright/fairthoughts).  If the use of each excerpt complies with the fair use criteria, then use of the material is a fair use.  Criterion Three, "the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole," is generally the most difficult one to determine.  A single copy of the following is often used to meet Criterion Three: 

  • a chapter from a book;
  • an article from a periodical or newspaper volume;
  • a short excerpt from a Web page;
  • a short story, short essay or short poem, whether or not from a collective work;
  • a chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper.  

Note: These guidelines for Criterion Three are not intended to limit the types of copying permitted under the standards of fair use which are stated in Section 107 of the Copyright Revision Bill. There may be instances in which copying which does not fall within the guidelines may nonetheless be permitted under the criteria of fair use. If you plan to exceed these guidelines and it constitutes more than 25% of an entire work, you must first consult your liaison librarian. In no case, however, may an entire book be placed online without copyright permission, even if it is out-of-print.

If the excerpts of copyrighted materials on placed on online, they must be restricted to students officially enrolled in the course, and technological measures must be applied that prevent the retention of the work for longer than the class session and prevent unauthorized further dissemination of the work.

If an instructor wished to use excerpts of copyrighted materials in a subsequent class, he/she may as long as the same guidelines are followed.
SOURCES: U.S. Code, Title 17, Section 107 (Limitation on exclusive rights: Fair use)Subtitle C of Title III of Public Law 107-273: The 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (AKA The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002 (TEACH Act)   ARL's Code of Best Practices in Fair use for Academic and Research Libraries

Single copies - Posting journal articles on the Web

SCENARIO: An instructor 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.
GUIDELINE: If access to his Web page is unrestricted then this is not a fair use. Access to the web page must be restricted to only those students enrolled in his class (for example via World Classroom) in order for this to be a fair use.
SOURCES: U.S. Code, Title 17, Section 107 (Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use) Subtitle C of Title III of Public Law 107-273: The 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (AKA The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002 (TEACH Act)

Multiple copies - Journal article for classroom use

SCENARIO: An instructor copies one article from a journal, then makes multiple copies to distribute to the students in her face to face class.
GUIDELINE: Distributing multiple copies of a journal article to students enrolled in your class is a fair use.  You must always include both the copyright notice found on the original and the appropriate citations and attributions to the source.
SOURCE: U.S. Code, Title 17, Section 107 (Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use)

Multiple copies - Compiling and distributing course packs

SCENARIO: A faculty member wishes to create a course pack that will be sold to students in his class.  The course pack may include excerpts from copyrighted books and journals. 
GUIDELINE:  For course packs that are intended for purchase by students, the instructor should plan to use the course pack service offered by Follett Bookstore for the St. Louis campuses or MBS Direct or local copy service for extended campuses. The copy center that publishes the course pack should advise whether there are any excerpts that are not fair use and should facilitate seeking permissions or paying license fees.  If the instructor compiles the course pack, s/he must do a fair use analysis of each except. See also Single Copies: Copying and Distributing Portions of Copyrighted Works in the Classroom or on the Web
SOURCE: U.S. Code, Title 17, Section 107 (Limitation on exclusive rights: Fair use)

Multiple copies - Using tests, workbooks, and other "consumables"

In general, materials that are created for the educational market are guided by principle of “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.” (SOURCE: U.S. Code, Title 17, Section 107 (Limitation on exclusive rights: Fair use). Use of more than a brief excerpt is unlikely to be fair use.

SCENARIO: A faculty member wishes to use or show an instructor copy of a test or other "consumable" or component of a consumable such as a DVD that accompanies a textbook, in a class.
GUIDELINE: Whether or not this is fair use depends on license terms included with the instructor’s copy.  These will specify any restrictions in use and whether permission is required.  See also: Showing or Playing Copyrighted Media for Classroom Instruction in the Classroom or for Distance Education.
SOURCE: U.S. Code, Title 17, Section 107 (Limitation on exclusive rights: Fair use)

SCENARIO:  A faculty member wishes to copy and distribute a test, questionnaire or other measure to all students in a class.
GUIDELINE: What is within fair use depends on how the test or measure is to be used.  If the instructor uses a commercial test for diagnostic purposes, the license agreement may require that a copy be purchased for each student.  Note:  If a faculty member plans to publish research based on the students’ responses to the test, s/he should consult the University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). If the instructor wishes to distribute copies of a test as a specimen or class example, check the license. If one wishes to use a noncommercial test, follow the Fair Use guidelines outlined in Copying and Distributing Copyrighted Materials in the Classroom or on the Web.
SOURCE: U.S. Code, Title 17, Section 107 (Limitation on exclusive rights: Fair use)

SCENARIO: A faculty member wishes to copy and distribute a commercial case study (for example, those sold by Harvard Business School) to all students in a class.
GUIDELINE: This is not fair use because such case studies are created for sale.  A copy of the case is expected to be purchased by/for each student in the class.
SOURCE: U.S. Code, Title 17, Section 107 (Limitation on exclusive rights: Fair use)