Copyright law generally exists to protect the potential commercial benefits of authors and creators. It also can help copyright owners control how their work is used. A work is covered under copyright the moment it is created, regardless of whether or not it is stated on the work.

There are several exceptions to copyright (ex. fair use), but if you are ever in doubt whether or not your request fulfills an exception, seek permission to use from the copyright owner.

Getting Permission

Often you can request permission from the copyright holder of the work you want to use. Depending on each case the time required can vary, so plan ahead. 

The Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) can grant permission for use of thousands of text-based works. As a general rule, start here when desiring permission to use a text-based work. CCC is able to provide a simple and cost-effective method of securing permissions for the use of many text-based forms of copyrighted materials. Although some permissions are granted instantly at CCC online, others may take much longer. The service recommends entering your application four to six weeks before the start of the term for which the materials will be needed.

Fair Use

The idea of "Fair Use" provides us with the ability to use materials under copyright in the classroom; HOWEVER, there are four criteria that govern whether use falls under "fair use".

    1. The PURPOSE of the use

  • In what context will the work be used (financial gain, criticism, etc.)?

    2. The NATURE of the work

  • Is the work factual or creative?

   3. The AMOUNT of the work used

  • Is the amount used significant

   4. The IMPACT of use on the rights holder

  • Will the rights holder be hurt by the use of the material?

Fill out the following PDF form and save it to determine and claim fair use or to denote permission obtained for EACH copyrighted work you use:

Hints for Fair Use and Multimedia

You can use small portions of multimedia (including electronic) copyrighted works in academic projects, such use must be directly related to classroom activities. Follow these guidelines:

  • Material may be used for up to two years, students have longer if part of a portfolio for employment purposes.
  • Up to 10% or 3 minutes of motion media may be used.
  • Up to 10% or 1,000 words of text can be used.
  • Up to 10% or no more than 30 seconds of music can be used.
  • No more than 5 images by an artist, or 10% or 15 images of a book.
  • Up to 10% or 2500 fields of a database.
  • Limited copies can be made, no more than two.
  • On all downloaded Internet material, copyright information must be displayed clearly.

More Information

Hints for Fair Use and Audio-Visual Materials

  • Materials used on campus must be shown in a manner directly related to a class, whether individually or to a group.
  • Only students or educators may view or show.
  • Such showing cannot be for entertainment or even general intellectual purposes without permission.
  • If a video/DVD is being viewed as part of a public club or department event, then copyright permission MUST be obtained.
  • Video tapes/DVD can be viewed in library if part of classroom assignment.
  • Video tapes/DVD can be loaned by library to campus users for classroom related purposes.
  • Videotaped recordings of broadcasts can only be kept for 45 days, but a recording may be shared in class after the first 10 days of the recording.
  • PBS recordings can be kept for 7 days only.
  • Copies of audiovisual materials can only be made to replace those that are lost or damaged and are archival copies.

More Information

  1. Audio-Visual Fair Use

Links to Further Information Regarding Copyright Law

  1. Stanford Copyright & Fair Use
  2. U.S. Copyright Office
  3. Guidelines for Copyright Compliance with Course Management Systems

If you have any copyright questions, don't hesitate to contact a librarian.