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Copyright and Fair Use for Faculty

Background of copyright and fair use for educators, with an emphasis on FAQs for using library and other resources in compliance with copyright law. This site is not legal advice, and the authors are not legal counsel to the university.

Common Fair Use Scenerios

The scenarios below are intended to help faculty evaluate the use of an item in the context of fair use. For online questions also see the tabs in this guide for the TEACH Act< Streaming and Moodle. The examples below include commonly asked questions related to:

Printed Materials

Journal Articles for  Classroom Use

  • Can I makes copies of an article from a periodical to distribute to a class?
    • Yes, distribution of copies of an article for classroom use is fair use. However, the repeated use of a copyrighted work, from term-to-term, may require more scrutiny in a fair use evaluation.


  • Can I scan copies of copyrighted articles and texts from books and make a coursepak for my class?
    • No, this is not fair use. You need to obtain permission before reproducing copyrighted materials for a coursepak. It is best ti use the University's coursepak service available through the bookstore


  • Can I make copies of a textbook for my class?
    • No, this is not fair use.  By copying the entire book and providing copies to all students you will affect the publisher's market for the book.  You should have the Library place a copy on reserve or ask each student to purchase the book.  Only the original, legally obtained text, and not a copy, can go on reserve.

Public Domain Materials

  • Can I copy a play by Shakespeare from a copyrighted anthology?
    • Yes, in this case it is fair use because the play itself is in the public domain and not under copyright protection..

Journal Article for Personal Use

  • Can I make a copy of an article from a copyrighted journal for my own use?
    • Yes, this is fair use for personal research and reference. 


  • Can I make a copy of an out of print and unavailable book for my own use or to put on reserve?
    • Yes, this is fair use since this is an educational use and will not impact the market since it is not available from any source.  However, the book may still be under copyright so it should not be made available freely on the internet.

Commercial Films in the Classroom

Showing a Film for Classroom Instruction

  • Can I show a copyrighted commercial motion picture to my class for instructional purposes?
    • Yes, it is fair use if it is a copy you bought or got from the library and it is for classroom instruction.

Copying a Film for Classroom Instruction

  • Can I make a copy of my film for a colleague to show in class?
    • No, you can not make a copy, but you can lend your copy to your colleague.  You also can not use a copied film to show to your own class.

Multimedia Projects


  • Can I or a student use photographs in a presentation if permission was not obtained?
    • Yes, fair use allows classroom use of such copyrighted materials for instructional purposes. This includes incorporating photographs into documents such as PowerPoint presentations.
  • Does this still apply for online classes?
    • Yes, as long as it is the class is only available to enrolled students and the purpose is instructional or for scholarly or research purposes.  If the presentation is taped it would also be  fair use to be shown again for educational purposes such as instruction or student review.
  • Can changes be made to a photograph in a presentation?
    • Yes, changes can be made if the audience is informed and the change was made for education, comment, criticism, or parody.


  • The use of copyrighted music in presentations by instructors and students is analogous to the use of copyrighted photographs: permission does not need to be obtained as long as the purpose is educational and instructional, and restricted to the students enrolled in the course, whether in person or online.