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Basics of copyright rules, restrictions, and permissions for students, faculty and staff.

Fair Use

The Fair Use Checklist

Any time you want to use a copyrighted item, begin by using this Fair Use checklist. If you have additional questions or concerns, don't hesitate to contact the campus Copyright Liaison, Pam O'Sullivan 

What do we mean by "Fair Use?"

"Fair use” provides for exceptions to the exclusive rights of copyright owners, making it possible for teachers and librarians to use portions of copyrighted works for specific purposes. Below is the part of the 1976 US Copyright Law governing this area:

§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

The fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the four factors to be considered shall include:

[Library comments regarding U.S. court decisions are in brackets]

1) the purpose and character of the use including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

[Educational uses are viewed more favorably.]

2) the nature of the copyrighted work

[The more creative the work, the more it is protected, i.e., works of fiction vs. news or historical reports.]

3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole 

[See library guidelines.]

4) and the effect of the use upon the potential market or or value of the copyrighted work.

[Student workbooks and other "disposables" should not be copied since the market for the work would be impacted. Multiple chapters of a textbook also should not be copied.]

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors. Claiming “educational purposes” alone is not enough to claim fair use. All four factors above must be considered. Each is subject to interpretation, and your materials should be examined on a case by case basis.

How Fair Use Affects E-Reserves

Fair use is the policy which makes electronic reserves feasible, but it does not grant  a user  "carte blanche". At SUNY Brockport, faculty posting materials to Brightspace or any other platform are expected to comply with Fair Use guidelines. We also require students to adhere to Fair Use guidelines in the preparation of classwork and in any use of computer or other resources for recreation or leisure.


Seek permission from the copyright holder if you intend to use the article for more than one calendar year in your course or exceed any of the following guidelines:

·     use of up to 10 percent or one chapter from a book

·     one article from a periodical issue or newspaper

·     one short story, short essay, or short poem (250 words max), whether or not from a collective work

·     one chart, diagram, graph, drawing, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical or newspaper
What about streaming films for my online classes?
The Copyright Act at §110(1) (face to face teaching exemption) allows for the performance or display of video or film in a classroom where instruction takes place in a face-to-face class as part of the curriculum. The TEACH Act amendment to the Copyright Act, codified at § 110(2), permits the performance of a reasonable and limited portion of films in an online classroom. Under the TEACH Act, there is the express limitation on quantity, and an entire film will rarely constitute a reasonable and limited portion. Instructors may also rely upon fair use for showing films in an online course, although showing an entire film online also may not constitute fair use. Finally, the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) prohibits the circumvention of technological prevention measures (TPM) on DVDs and other media for the purpose of copying and distributing their content. Therefore, digitizing and streaming an entire DVD is not permissible unless an express exemption permits this

For More Information

Check this website, which gives a good overview:  Fair Use Network

Another source that can be very helpful: The Recording Industry Association of America

For checking on the copyright status of materials, or to determine copyright protections for your own work: Copyright Clearance Center

Last Updated: Apr 15, 2024 10:08 AM