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Copyright & Fair Use for Education

A guide for faculty introducing copyright and fair use.

Decision Tree for using Copyrighted Materials

Although every circumstance of copyright is unique, there are some determinations you need to make when using other people's creations in your work:

Determine if the work is in the Public Domain.

If not, check to see if it has a Creative Commons License.

If no CC license, then use the factors of Fair Use to determine how and how much you can use.

If Fair Use analysis is not clear, determine if the TEACH Act will apply

If you are still in doubt, obtain permission or find other materials to use.



Obtaining Permission

Copyright holders have the right to decide who can use their copyrighted materials.  If you locate the copyright holder, you can contact them to figure out the permissions for using their materials.  Howver, some creators sign away their copyright.  For example, many scientific publishers hold the copyright to the finished article.  The authors cannot grant permission for their use!

If you would like to obtain permission, here are a few places to try:

  • Copyright Clearance Center -- This serves as a clearinghouse for many publishers to grant copyright of their works.  You can simply go to the webpage, find your materials and there will be a price to pay for how you intend to use the material.

  • In the online world, look for hte "rights and permissions" section of the website.  This will outline their protocols for using their materials.
  • The "Basics of Getting Permission" page from the Stanford University Libraries Copyright and oermission page is a good place to start.

Fair Use Exception

FAIR USE Exception

The "Fair Use Exception" allows for the use of copyrighted materials without permission provided the intent and presentation of the materials falls within the FAIR USE Guidelines.

Fair Use is the customary way that educators use copyrighted materials in their classes and for their students. 

There is a special section of this guide dedicated to information on  Fair Use.   

TEACH Act Exception


In 2002, Congress recognized the need for clarification with copyright rules for the digitlal teaching environment.  The "Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization" or TEACH Act was passed and signed into law.  This act expanded and clarified certain copyright considerations for the digital world.  Some of the allowances from the TEACH Act are:

  • Allowing reasonable/limited portions of dramatic and audiovisual works to be posted for instruction.
  • Promoting direct links to e-resources, videos that include attribution, and streaming media.
  • Allowing scenes/portions of films to be uploaded for limited amount of time for instructional purposes.

Under the TEACH Act, permission for using copyrighted materials is not needed provided certain criteria are considered.   More information on the exception can be found here.

For more information on the TEAC Act, visit the American Librarian Association TEACH Act Information page.