Comply with copyright and fair use guidelines in course materials

This page provides only rules of thumb for adhering to copyright law and fair use standards. The information provided here is neither legal advice nor a complete guide. For more detailed information, see the U.S. Copyright Office’s Copyright Basics (PDF File) and Fair Use; also see the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002, which defines educational exemptions from copyright law.


Use Woodle or Confluence Wiki
Materials that are to be placed online must meet the criteria for fair use.  Posting on a Web site that is password protected and only accessible by students enrolled in the class improves the argument that a particular excerpt or clip is fair use. Woodle and Confluence Wiki provides such an environment for Wooster faculty.  Please be sure that you also consider the other fair use factors, include the amount you are using from an entire work and the nature of the original work.

Don’t allow public access
Make sure copyrighted materials on your woodle or wiki course site are not available for guest (public) access. By default, woodle sites do not allow guest access.

Link to existing materials where possible
For example, instead of quoting extensively from a New York TImes article about Wooster Alumnus Kelly Jolley (making sure to cite the author, date, publisher and title), simply link to the article.

Don’t re-digitize material
Before digitizing material, first check if it is already available electronically at Wooster. For example, if you want to scan a chapter of a book, first see the Libraries’ e-reserve guide and contact your library liaison to check if the book is already available in digital form.

Reproduce only the minimum amount of materials
Once you decide which sections of complete works you will need for class purposes, distribute only those sections — not the complete works. For example, if an assignment involves only a single scene in a movie, provide access only to that clip — not the entire movie.

Present materials in the format that is least easily copied
For example, if you want to make a song available online, post it as a streaming media file, instead of making it available as a downloadable file (Wooster hopes to have a course streaming server up and running for Fall 2009).

Check the copyright status of a work
If you are using materials in a manner that would require permission from a copyright holder, you can check the copyright status of a work through the U.S. Copyright Office’s Search Copyright Records: Registrations and Documents site. (Please note the site’s disclaimer that its online databases contain records only from 1978 forward, and may not include records for the most recent copyright registrations.)

Further Reading

Copyright Crash Course
A Web site from University of Texas that provides a thorough introduction to copyright and fair use.

Copyright and Fair Use
A Web site from Stanford University that provides news on copyright and fair use issues.

Know your Copy Rights
This site looks at copyright from the perspectives of all key academic stakeholders and suggests what each group can do to enhance their copyright practices and advance academic interests.

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use in Media Literacy Education

This document is a code of best practices that helps educators using media literacy concepts and techniques to interpret the copyright doctrine of fair use. Fair use is the right to use copyrighted material without permission or payment under some circumstances—especially when the cultural or social benefits of the use are predominant.

Fair Use Teaching Tools

The Center for Social Media has created a set of teaching tools for professors who are interested in teaching their students about fair use. The tools include powerpoints with lecture notes, guidelines for in-class discussions and exercises, assignments and grading rubrics.

Copyright and Wrongs
From the American Association of University Professors

Copyright Term and Public Domain in the United States
From Cornell University

Copyright Use Map
From the University of Minnesota

7 things you should know about: Creative Commons

This document describes what creative commons is and how it can be used to not violate copyright.






The content on this page was derived from webpages maintained by the Duke University Center for Instructional Technology