The Copyright Law of the United States of America is designed to protect the copyright holder from unauthorized use of a work. Fortunately, limitations in the law permit the legal, or fair, use of copyrighted materials without permission from the copyright holder, under certain circumstances. These limitations, called the criteria of fair use, help faculty members decide whether they can legally distribute a given material in the classroom or place it on course reserve. For additional information see the Fair Use Checklist box below.
§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use Sec. 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law ensures that copyright does not prevent access to materials for educational purposes by allowing “legal infringements” (as some characterize them) or “the right to infringe” (as most educators phrase it).
Determining the fair use of copyrighted materials is not clear-cut. Faculty members must weigh four factors when considering whether their use of an instructional material constitutes a fair use:
The purpose and character of the use, including whether it's intended for non-profit (educational) or for commercial (for profit) use.
The nature of the copyrighted work (published or non-published, fiction or non-fiction).
The amount of the copyrighted work used in relation to the whole.
The commercial effect (will it significantly affect the profits of the copyright holder, as is often the case for items used in successive quarters or years).
The Fair Use Checklist below will help you make the determination of whether your use falls under the guidelines.
Copyright for Campus Closures
A webinar presented by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). Practical tips for moving course content online and complying with copyright during the cornavirus.
Explication of Copyright and Fair Use During the Pandemic:
Although there is no precedence for copyright during a pandemic, even during normal times the courts favor the use of copyrighted information for education research and scholarship because it is a public benefit.
Per the Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists, “…making materials available and accessible to students in this time of crisis will almost always be a fair use.” The benefit of providing coursework to teach remotely during social distancing and when physical access isn't possible are dual public benefits which the court have favored.
Relying on licensed resources strengthens your use under the fair use guidelines, however lack of time to check for them should not be a barrier in times of emergencies.
You make the final decision as to whether a use is fair. As long as you give thoughtful analysis and conclude your use if fair, you will have limited liability if you are acting with the scope of your position. If you’re uncertain, use the Fair use Checklist to help you decide.
Librarians cannot give you legal advice but we can provide context and additional information.
Fair Use Checklist
If you're uncertain whether using a resource falls under fair use, fill out the form to help you decide and save a copy for your files.In in doing so, you will choose some factors that favor fair use and other factors that oppose it. The final determination of whether your use is "fair" rests on the balance of factors favoring and opposing it. Because you are most familiar with the materials you intend to use, you are the best one to conduct this analysis. Completing the checklist serves two purposes:
1) it helps you assess whether the instructional materials you would like to use meet the fair use provisions of the U.S. Copyright Act;
2) it provides documentation of your fair use analysis, which is critical to establishing a "reasonable and good-faith" effort to abide by the copyright law in meeting your educational objectives.
Core and adjunct faculty are encouraged to take copyright training. It takes about 20 minutes, including a short quiz, and addresses frequently asked questions.
Copyright-friendly Resources: the Details
It's always nice to find a bargain, and in some cases, there are works you can use for any purpose, including your own personal blog or website, for free! But remember, it's always best to give credit where credit is due: cite the source unless the source specifically states that you don't need to. Here are some examples of free resources:
Works in the public domain (i.e., the resource is no longer covered by copyright).
AccessMedicine: medical multimedia including images and videos available to use with proper attribution
UpToDate: medical multimedia including images and videos available to use with proper attribution
CDC’s Public Health Image Library: Contains images that include the history of public health practice, epidemic investigation, pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, and human interest topics.
Flickr: Specimens (Pathology): Gross and microscopic images of pathology specimens taken by Ed Uthman, a practicing pathologist in Houston, TX. Contains over 930 images, all licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license.
MedPix: medical images (registration provides additional features but isn't required)
National Cancer Institute: Visuals Online: Over 2,000 photos, diagrams, and drawings that can be used to help communicate meaning, describe concepts, and tell stories of biomedical, science, and patient-care topics..