Copyright FAQ - Educational Use
- Can I scan course readings and put them up on my website for my students to read?
- Can I provide citations and links to other resources on websites or articles from online journals or full-text databases?
- What if I use CourseWeb, a system that uses passwords to limit access to students in a particular class? Would that be fair use of copyrighted materials?
- If a work is copyrighted and I want to use it in my class, what do I have to do?
- What do I have to know about putting course readings on reserve in a University Library System library?
- What about course packets (CoursePacks)?
- What about copying a worksheet or a test for students?
- What is allowed if I am teaching a distance education course?
- Fair use means that if I’m using it for educational purposes, I can do whatever I want with a copyrighted work, right?
- Are there any resources available to help me determine what may be a fair use of a copyrighted work?
- Can I show films in the classroom?
- How about outside the classroom?
- What if I want to show a film that’s not part of a course?
- How do I obtain public performance rights for a film?
No, not without permission of the copyright owner. Materials posted on the web could be accessed by people all over the world. In effect you would be distributing the information freely and broadly, thus affecting the market for that work (fair use factor #4).
If you do request permission from the copyright owner to place the work on your website, the copyright owner may require that you limit access by password or some method of encryption to protect against unauthorized access or illegal copying.
An exception: Works in the public domain could be reproduced on a web site without infringing on someone’s copyright.
2. Can I provide citations and links to other resources on websites or articles from online journals or full-text databases?
Yes, you can do both from your own website.
Be careful how you link to these articles. You will want to use the “official URL” to link to an item, not the temporary “session URL” provided when you use the database. See how the journal or database cites the article to determine the correct URL to link to.
If you’re linking to an article only available through a subscription journal or database, only those with authorized access to that journal or database will be able to view the article. Visit the library website to see available online journals and databases, or ask us if you need help finding full-text online resources.
3. What if I use CourseWeb, a system that uses passwords to limit access to students in a particular class? Would that be fair use of copyrighted materials?
Possibly. Certainly, limiting access to students in a particular class makes a better case for fair use, but even in limiting access, you still have to consider the four fair use factors and the guidelines for brevity and spontaneity. For example, you could post an article in CourseWeb for one semester only and not re-use it unless you get permission from the copyright owner.
CourseWeb and the Center for Instructional Design and Distance Education (CIDDE) provide a "Checklist for Conducting a Fair Use Analysis Before Using Copyrighted Materials" may help you determine whether your use is a fair one.
It's important to remember that if it’s not permissible to distribute copies of articles, images, or other copyrighted materials in paper format, then it’s not permissible to distribute them in electronic format.
You can put it on reserve in the library without getting permission from the copyright owner.
If you want to distribute multiple copies directly to students, you probably need permission. You can get permission from the copyright owner. See the University of Pittsburgh Policy 10-04-01 Copying Copyrighted Materials for more details.
5. What do I have to know about putting course readings on reserve in a University Library System library?
Find out more about putting articles and books on reserve.
Find out more about putting audio and video materials on reserve.
The University Store on Fifth, also known as The Book Center, handles course packet orders, including copyright clearance. Staff at the store can assist you with copyright issues related to educational use of course packets.
If you create the test or worksheet and retain the copyright, yes, you can copy this.
However, tests and worksheets may also be under copyright, and you will need to get permission of the copyright owner to copy and distribute them. The reason for this? According to copyright expert, Kenneth D. Crews,
Publishers often produce and sell workbooks with the expectation that they will be fully consumed and repurchased with each use. Copies can undermine the copyright owner’s expectations.
In other words, copying tests and worksheets without permission impacts the potential market for sale of such materials.
See the University of Pittsburgh Policy 10-04-01 Copying Copyrighted Materials for more details.
Good question. It can be challenging to determine whether you can use copyrighted works and when you need to get permission to use them. Fair use, “safe harbor” provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, and the TEACH Act of 2002 come into play when using copyrighted materials for distance education courses.
For an overview of copyright basics in higher education, watch this video from Laura Hillock of the University's General Counsel.
9. Fair use means that if I’m using it for educational purposes, I can do whatever I want with a copyrighted work, right?
No. Fair use is a complicated concept and the general answer to any question about fair use is “maybe.” There are some very definite restrictions to using copyrighted materials even under fair use guidelines. In general, you should consider the four fair use factors from Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law:
- the purpose and character of use;
- the nature of the copyrighted work;
- the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;
- the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work
One of the best rules of thumb about fair use is whether or not you are confident that the use is permitted. If you are not absolutely certain your use is a fair use, it is always a good idea to get permission from the copyright owner before using a work.
10. Are there any resources available to help me determine what may be a fair use of a copyrighted work?
Yes, thankfully, there are. Here are a few that we recommend you try:
- “Thinking through fair use,” an interactive tool from the University of Minnesota
- “Using the four factor fair use test” from the University of Texas at Austin
- The “Fair Use Checklist” from Columbia University
- Exceptions for Instructors in U.S. Copyright Law eTool from the American Library Association Office of Information Technology Policy
- The “Copy Photography Computator” from the Visual Resources Association. (This one is designed to help determine fair use of images.)
Keep in mind that these resources provide guidance to help you determine what may be fair use of a copyrighted work. They do not provide a guarantee that your use is a fair one. Only an expert in intellectual and copyright law may be able to make that final determination.
Yes. According to the Section 110 (1) of the U.S. Copyright Act, performance of or showing films in the classroom (or a similar venue) as part of “face-to-face” teaching at non-profit educational institutions (such as Pitt) is covered under the fair use exception. Viewing must be limited to only those enrolled in the course. Showing films in analogous fashion as part of distance education or hybrid courses also qualifies as fair use under the TEACH Act, which is incorporated in Section 110 (2) of the U.S. Copyright Act.
There are noteworthy exceptions pertaining to remote locations and unlawfully acquired or made copies of audiovisual materials. See the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) “Performance of or Showing Films in the Classroom” for further advice and examples.
In some cases, yes. Performance of or showing films in a similar venue (i.e., not necessarily a classroom) for face-to-face instruction is covered under the fair use exception. Showing films in a similar fashion as part of distance education or hybrid courses also qualifies as fair use under the TEACH Act, which is incorporated in Section 110 (2) of the U.S. Copyright Act. In both cases, the display or performance must be limited to those enrolled in the course. The display or performance cannot be open to the public or freely available via the Internet.
No, this is not fair use. The performance of or showing of films for public viewing (whether admission is charged or not) or even by University-affiliated clubs and organizations does not fall under the fair use exception. In these cases, you will need to seek permission from the copyright owner by acquiring a public performance rights (PPR) license in order to show the films.
Generally, there is a charge for a PPR license, one that can range from $50 to $1,000, depending on the work and the copyright owner.
Acquiring PPR can take time and cost money. Some educational films, when purchased, may already have public performance rights; however, just because the film is educational in nature or produced by a non-profit organization does not guarantee PPR are included. Additionally, commercial films (e.g., Hollywood-produced movies) are not purchased with public performance rights; this permission must be acquired separately.
The section entitled “So how do I go about finding this PPR?” in this LibGuide created by a librarian at the University of Montana may provide you with some direction on searching for and acquiring a PPR license for a film you want to show in a non-classroom, non-instructional setting.