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Copyright for Higher Education: Examples

This guide provides faculty and staff with information about their rights and responsibilities when using copyrighted materials in face to face or online classes.

Copyright in Education

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Question: Can I give copies of a single article from a magazine, newspaper, or journal article to students in my class?
Answer: This should fall under Fair Use unless you do this repeatedly for a long period of time. If you want to use the same copyrighted article every semester, it may be better to provide students a link to the material in a library database or other legal source.

Question: Can I post a copy of a copyrighted article to a freely accessible website?

Answer: Probably not, unless you have the written permission of the owner of the copyright.

Question: Can I use copyrighted materials from different sources to create an anthology or coursepack?
Answer: Unless you receive copyright clearance from the copyright owner for each of the articles that you intend to use, this use is unlikely to fall under Fair Use.

Question: Can I place multiple copies of a textbook in Course Reserves for student to use?

Answer: Because this would effect the publisher's ability to sell the copyrighted material to students, this would not fall under Fair Use. Generally, faculty can place a single copy of a textbook on course reserves.

Question: Can an instructor use problem sets or case studies from a textbook intended for sale to students taking courses in the subject they are teaching by copying and distributing them to students in a class?
Answer: This is probably not Fair Use because it may diminish the market for the textbook that the problem sets or case studies come from. In addition, the instructor is using the problem sets or case studies in the same manner for which they were developed, further weakening the possibility that it would fall under Fair Use.

Question: Can instructors make copies of copyrighted materials of articles related to historical events from periodicals (newspapers, magazines, etc...) and distribute them to students for use in class?

Answer: Yes. Analyzing the articles at a later time period fulfills a different use than those originally intended, and it is likely that the instructor is using an appropriate amount fo the material. In addition, if the articles are old, their marketability is likely low, so this use would not interfere with the copyright holders ability to sell the articles.


Question: Can I make copies of sheet music for my class?
Answer: Instructors can provide copies of excerpts of musical scores, but not entire songs, movements, or arias that could be used for a performance.

Question: Can students or faculty make copies of sound recordings?

Answer: Students can make a single copy of copyrighted music for instructional purposes, and their instructor may keep a copy. Instructors can also make a single copy of a sound recording owned by the institution for educational uses such as examinations.

Question: Can I create anthologies of copyrighted music in print or audio form for use in class?
Answer: No. However, you can create streaming playlists from services like Spotify, Apple Music, or Tidal. 

Question: Can I use short clips of different sound recordings of the same song as part of lecture notes or an assignment posted to Canvas?

Answer: Because this use is both transformative and related to a specific instructional activity, it is like to fall under Fair Use provisions. Canvas is password protected and student access is limited to the duration of the course also tends to argue for Fair Use in this case.


Question: Can I use copyrighted images - illustrations, drawings, photographs, prints, or maps - for instruction in my classroom?

Answer: Yes, as long as you are in a traditional face-to-face classroom at a non-profit institution.

Question: Can I use copyrighted images in online classes?
Answer: Maybe. The classroom exemption does not apply to online courses, so instructors must consider whether their use of copyrighted images falls under Fair Use guidelines using the checklists located on the Fair Use tab.

Question: Can I make copies of copyrighted images for use in class or distribution to students?

Answer: You can show images in class, but in order to copy or distribute them, you'll need to determine if your intended use is Fair. You can use the checklists located on the Fair Use tab, or contact a librarian for assistance.

Question: Can I use copyrighted images in class assignments or examinations?
Answer: If these uses are transformational (i.e. being used in a manner different from the intent of the creator of the image) and the amount of the images used are appropriate for the specific instructional use, then using images in assignments or examinations is likely Fair Use of the material.

Question: Can students download or print images to study or use for course assignments?

Answer: As long as the use is both educational and transformative, students can download, print, and place copyrighted images in assignments and portfolios of their works.

Question: Can I post a large number (dozens, hundreds, or thousands) of images to my Canvas course for students to access?
Answer: This would likely not fall under the provisions of Fair Use due to the large number of images - the use may be educational and transformative, but you would need to be able to make a clear case (and document it) of how each image relates to specific instructional activity.

Question: Can I use copyrighted photos of artwork in my classes?

Answer: Photos that duplicate the details of paintings are not viewed as creative works, allowing their use. Photos of sculpture are creative works, so you would need to check Fair Use guidelines.


Question: Can I show a copyrighted movie or television show in my class?

Answer: Yes, but only if the movie or show is used for instructional purposes in a location normally used for students and no admission fee is charged.

Question: Can I copy a video for use in class?
Answer: No, as this would be a violation of the copyright holder's right to sell copies of the movie or television show.

Question: Can I rent a video to show in my classroom?

Answer: As long as the license for the rental does not prohibit showing the video in class, then this use would likely be acceptable.

Question: Can I check out a movie from the PSC Libraries to show in my class?
Answer: Yes, as long as the video is used for instruction, not entertainment and admission is not charged.

Question: Can I use streaming video services like Amazon Prime or Netflix in my class?

Answer: As with other uses for specific instruction, as long as the license with the streaming service does not prohibit classroom use, this should be acceptable.

Online Classes

Question: If an instructor requires that students place presentations created for class on the open Internet, can they include copyrighted materials (audio, video, etc...) in the presentation?
Answer: No. Because the open Internet is an unlimited distribution system, clearance from the copyright holders would be required.

Question: Can a student post a presentation containing copyrighted material online in a closed setting such as an online course requiring a password to access?

Answer: Yes, but only if access is restricted to members of the class as part of instruction.

Question: Can an instructor post copyrighted images on a freely available website for students to access?
Answer: It depends. If the instructor is using the image as a news item, as originally intended, it would not be Fair Use. However, if it was a course in photography or design and the instructor posts the image in conjunction with lecture notes discussing the instructional aspects they want students to learn, it may fall under Fair Use as a transformative use of the material. However, it would be better to post the images in password protected forum like Canvas. 

Question: Can I stream movies in an online class?

Answer: Usually not unless you have a streaming license for the film. However, you could post links to movies in PSC Library databases, or tell students sites they can legally stream the movie from.

Question: Can I post copies of articles or book chapters in my online courses?
Answer: Maybe. If it is an article or e-book from a database the library subscribes to you, should probably post a permalink to the article rather than a copy of the article to remain within the terms of the license. If you scanned the article of chapter, it may fall under Fair Use. Use one of the checklists on the Fair Use tab, or contact a PSC Librarian for assistance.

Question: Can I embed YouTube videos in my online course?

Answer: This should be an acceptable use. However, you should verify that the copyright owner has allowed viewing of the video on YouTube. This is more likely a concern with documentaries, films, television shows, or music than personal videos uploaded to the site.

Multimedia Projects

Question: Can teachers or students use copyrighted images in classroom presentations?
Answer: Yes. Under Fair Use, classroom presentations for instruction are covered as long attribution for the source of the images is provided.

Question: Can I record classroom presentations that contain copyrighted materials?

Answer: Yes, this would be acceptable under Fair Use if the recording is used for instructional purposes.

Question: Can I (or a student) use copyrighted music in classroom presentations?
Answer: Yes, as long as the music and the presentation are for specific instructional activities.

Question: Can I (or a student) use copyrighted images or music in a classroom presentation that is then placed on the Internet?

Answer: As long as access to the video of the presentation containing the copyrighted materials is restricted by a password and the video of the presentation was created for instructional purposes, then this use should fall under Fair Use.