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Copyright for Higher Education

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


Teachers and Copyright





Click image for chart of Fair Use guidelines for teachers. (Xavier Univ Library)

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 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.

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.