Skip to Main Content

Copyright & Fair Use Guide

General Guidelines

Copyright is PROBABLY NOT
an issue with:
Resources you have created for your class, such as lecture notes, tests, syllabi, reading lists
US Government publications
Or, works in the public domain

Copyright MAY BE an issue with:
Journal / periodical articles (and excerpts from them)
Books (and excerpts from them)
Databases / electronic articles
Images, charts, and graphs
Movies, videos, games


Source:  “Copyright Information for Faculty: MIT Libraries.”

Digital and Digitized Materials

Guidelines for digital copying, digitized images and multimedia presentations have been proposed but not approved.  For information on the proposed guidelines, see Stanford's Copyright & Fair Use site or Cornell's Electronic Course Content Copyright Guidelines.

More information can be found on the E-Reserves: Fair Use Checklist tab at the top of the page. 

Copyright Guidelines

The following information was gathered from Stanford University Libraries' Fair Use & Copyright site and the United States Copyright Office site.  Please visit these sites for more information on copyright and fair use.

"The copyright principles that apply to instructional use of copyrighted works in electronic environments are the same as those that apply to such use in paper environments. Any use of copyrighted electronic course content that would require permission from the copyright owner if the materials were part of a printed coursepack likewise requires the copyright owner's permission when made available in electronic format."

Source:  Cornell Electronic Course Content Copyright Guidelines

1. ACADEMIC COURSEPACKS - If you create a coursepack for your class, it is your responsibility to obtain copyright clearance for the materials it includes.
Suggestion: When possible, provide students with a link to articles or resources. Check with the library to see if we have a subscription to the resource or if it is freely available via a credible web site. The library can often place a resource on reserve or electronic reserve for a class, as well.
2. EDUCATIONAL USES OF NON-COURSEPACK MATERIALS - The United States Copyright Office provides guidelines for education use in Circular 21 on page 8:
A. SINGLE COPYING: An instructor can make a single copy of the following materials for scholarly research, to prepare for teaching a class, or in teaching a class: a chapter from a book; an article from a periodical or newspaper; a short story, short essay or short poem; or a chart, graph, diagram, or image from a book, periodical, or newspaper.
B. MULTIPLE COPIES FOR IN CLASS USE: Faculty can make copies of materials for classroom use, but those copies cannot exceed the number of students in the class, cannot replace a textbook or workbook, and each copy must contain a notice of copyright. The materials to be copied must also meet the guidelines of brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect.
1.  Poetry: A complete poem, if it is less than 250 words and is printed on 2 or less pages. Or, an excerpt of 250 or less words from a longer poem. (This can be extended to the completion of an unfinished line of the poem).
2.  Prose: A complete article, story or essay if it is less than 2,500 words. Or, an excerpt from a prose work of a minimum of 500 words and up to 1,000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less. (This can be expanded to the completion of an unfinished paragraph).
3.  Illustration: One chart, graph, diagram, drawing cartoon or picture per book or per periodical issue.
4.  'Special' works: Certain works in poetry, prose or in "poetic prose" which often combine language with illustrations and which are intended sometimes for children and at other times for a more general audience fall short of 2,500 words in their entirety... such 'special works' may not be reproduced in their entirety; however, an excerpt compromising not more than two of the published pages of such special work and containing not more than 10% of the words found in the text thereof, may be reproduced.
1.  The inspiration must come from the instructor of the course.
2.  The time between the inspiration and decision to use the work and the moment of use must be too short to obtain the appropriate permissions.
1.  The copies are made for only one course.
2.  Only one short poem, article, story, essay or two excerpts may be copied from the same author and not more than three excerpts can be copied from the same work or periodical per term.
3.  And, no course can have more than nine instances of multiple copies for class use per term.
One exception to cumulative effect rules 2 and 3: Current news periodicals and newspapers and current news sections in other periodicals.

*For information on digital copying, digitized images and multimedia presentations, see Stanford's Proposed Guidelines.