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Information in this page was reviewed and approved by legal counsel. Please see disclaimer. Review date: January 2009 .

Copyright FAQ

If I'm copying something for an educational purpose, isn't that fair use?

Copying a copyrighted work for educational purposes doesn't automatically make that copying fair use. Fair use can only be determined on a case-by-case basis, which takes into account the balance of four factors, including the purpose and nature of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substance copied, and the effect on the market or value of the copyrighted work. See What is Fair Use.

May I copy a printed journal article for my students?

Distribution of multiple copies of an article for classroom use can be a fair use. Allowance of this copying is expressed in the statute, but a four-factor fair use analysis is needed to determine whether fair use applies to any particular set of circumstances surrounding a use.

May I download a digital copy of an article and post it to my class WebCT/Vista site?

Fair use applies to the use of digital as well as print versions of copyrighted works. For digital articles, however, you will need to restrict access to only those students enrolled in the course and limit duration of an article's availability. A four-factor fair use analysis will need to be conducted for each article you'd like to post on the Web site.

May I download a PDF of an article that is licensed by the library and post it to my class Web site?

Any use of copyrighted works made available by a license agreement through University Libraries must first comply with the terms of that license. These agreements often do not allow copying PDF files and reposting them on another Web site or HuskyCT (see Licensed Resources). Frequently, however, you may make articles available through a direct link.

If an article is freely available online or on the Web, is it protected by copyright?

Most likely. Copyright protection is automatically assigned to all new works as soon as they are fixed in a tangible medium. Materials presented online (including on the Web) may be protected by copyright even if they are freely and openly available and do not display a copyright statement or symbol notice ("").

May I use articles I'm providing to students this semester for classes in upcoming semesters? Don't the "Classroom Guidelines" prohibit repeated use of copyrighted works for more than one semester?

The Classroom Guidelines state a minimum, not a maximum standard for educational fair use. Nonetheless, if you decide to use course readings under the Guidelines, any subsequent use should still involve a four-factor fair use analysis. Remember that repeated use, though not disallowed under statutory fair use, can have a cumulative effect on any markets for the original work.

May I copy chapters from a textbook and distribute them to my students?

This would generally NOT be considered fair use. The market for the textbook is directly affected by this activity. Students who would otherwise be expected to purchase the book no longer need to and the publisher is deprived of sales in their primary market.

What if my use DOES NOT qualify as fair use?

If your four-factor use analysis does not lead to a favorable fair use conclusion, you might want to explore these options:

  • Determine if the copyrighted item you want to use is licensed by the University of Connecticut Libraries. If so, you may be able to use it for certain educational purposes. See Licensed Resources.
  • Seek permission to use the material from the copyright owner.
  • Revise your proposed use to mitigate those circumstances weighing against fair use.

May I include photographs or music in a presentation for my class?

Yes, displaying or performing copyrighted photographs and music for classroom purposes is allowed under section 110 of U.S. Copyright Law.

May I make changes to a photograph or music file and use it in a class presentation?

Yes, changes made to enhance your instructional purpose, e.g., commentary, criticism, or even parody, are activities allowed under the fair use provision.

May I show a video in my class without permission from the copyright owner?

Yes. Section 110 of U.S. copyright law permits showing a lawfully acquired video in the classroom.

What is the TEACH Act?

The "Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonizatiion Act," otherwise known as the TEACH Act allows instructors to perform or display copyrighted works in distance education environments. The Act has many potential advantages for the use of digital technology in teaching. In order to take advantage of these benefits, however, instructors, technologists, and institutions must meet many detailed requirements. The University of Connecticut is in the process of satisfying TEACH Act requirements so that its provisions may be available to the university community.

What is e-reserve and how does copyright apply?

Electronic Course Reserve (ECR) is a Web-based library service that provides students with short term, limited access to materials selected by instructors. ECR access is restricted to authorized users and registered students. Instructors who submit materials to the library to be posted on ECR are responsible for conducting a four-factor fair use analysis on a case-by-case basis to determine whether use of each work requires permission or qualifies as fair use. For more details, see the Course Reserve Copyright Policy.

What about course packs and copyright?

A course pack is a compilation of various reproduced copyrighted works (e.g., articles from journals, chapters from textbooks, and various other readings) that your students will purchase at the bookstore. The University of Connecticut's Co-op provides assistance in getting the necessary permissions to create printed course packs, and to reproduce them for sale at the Co-op.

May I make a copy of a journal article for my personal files?

Yes, making a personal copy of a copyrighted work for your research and reference is considered fair use.

May I quote lines from a book, poem, or song in a published work of my own?

Reproducing portions of a copyrighted work for the purposes of comment and criticism is often allowed under fair use. However, a four-factor use analysis will need to be conducted for each excerpt you'd like to quote from each work.


Content in this page was used or adapted with permission from one or more institutions. Please see acknowledgements.
Related Links:

Frequently Asked Questions About Copyright (U.S. Copyright Office)

Copyright FAQs (Stanford)

Law/copyright/FAQ (faqs.org)

Search Google for Copyright Myths

Using Copyrighted Works in Your Teaching—FAQ (Hoon) -- Also has scenarios.

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