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Copyright: In the Classroom & Online

A LibGuide to inform faculty and students about copyright.

What Can You Use?

Under the “fair use” provision of copyright law, a person may make limited use of another author’s work without asking permission. As I note elsewhere in this guide:

"There's no one right answer as to what constitutes a "fair use" of a particular copyrighted work. The answer varies from situation to situation."

Posting an item to Canvas does not exempt an instructor from copyright regulations. Therefore, instructors are encouraged to consult these guidelines. In order of preference, these include: 

  1. Link to your article from a library database (see below for more information on locating persistent links to articles).
  2. If a persistent link is unavailable, complete a Fair Use Evaluation, scan your article, and then upload it to Canvas.
  3. Repeated use over multiple semesters weighs against fair use. For repeated use, you will likely need to contact the publisher and request permission

Persistent Links:

If you copy a database link from your Internet browser into Canvas, that link will eventually stop working because it is a dynamic, non-static link. To eliminate this problem, most database companies now offer persistent links for their articles. Persistent links (also known as persistent URLs) are stable links that will consistently take students to a particular full-text article in a library database.

Note that to ensure access by off-campus users, all persistent links should include proxy information in the first segment of the URL:

For example, if you wanted to link to the following persistent URL (noted in bold) in Canvas, then it should look like this:

Some databases include the proxy URL, others do not - so you you need to copy and paste the proxy URL in front of the persistent link.  

Need help locating a persistent link in a particular library database? See the Permalinks LibGuide for instructions on obtaining permalinks from EBSCO, JSTOR, Gale, ProQuest, and Project MUSE databases.

Questions about which library databases have persistent URLs or on how to set up your link in Canvas? Please contact:

Josh Petrusa (x9236 or jpetrusa)

Additional help:

The Center for Academic Technology is available to help you will all your Canvas questions, including additional ways to integrate library resources.

This is just a sampling of some of the Open Educational Resources (OERs) available online. If you're looking for specific OERs, the best person to talk to is your librarian!

Educational Use Standards

There are no hard and fast rules for fair use in the classroom. Please take these guidelines with a grain of salt and conduct your own fair use evaluation.

Please use these examples as a suggested starting point and be sure to use the Fair Use Evaluator, if you deem it appropriate to do so. Also, please be advised that courts are not bound by established standards or guidelines and the Copyright Act contains no such standards. Therefore, we advise that you conduct your own fair use evaluation. 

Print Materials:

  • A single chapter from a book (5% of work for in print; 10% of work for out of print)
  • A single article from a journal issue or newspaper
  • A short story, essay, or poem from an individual work.
  • A single chart, diagram, graph, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, journal, magazine, or newspaper.

Distributing Copies

  • Copies made should not substitute the purchase of books, journals, etc.
  • Always provide a copyright notice on the first page of the copied material. At bare minimum your notice should state: "Notice: This material is subject to the copyright law of the United States."
  • Provide only one copy per student.
  • Copying the works for subsequent semesters requires copyright permission from the publisher.

Using Materials Found on the Internet

  • Always credit the source
  • If you are using the information on your personal web page ask permission or simply link to the site
  • If you receive permission to use the material keep a copy for your records

Using Multimedia

Multimedia works are created by combining copyrighted elements such as movies, music, sounds, graphics, and text. It is recommended that you use only small portions of other people's works.

Suggested limits:

  • Movies: Up to 10% or three minutes, whichever is less
  • Text: Up to 10% or 1,000 words, whichever is less. (The limits on poetry are more restrictive.)
  • Music: Up to 10% of an individual copyrighted musical composition. 10% of a copyrighted musical composition on a sound recording. However, no more than 30 seconds may be used without gaining permission from the copyright owner and/or publisher.
  • Photos and Illustrations: Based on the below guidelines, "a photograph or illustration may be used in its entirety, but no more than five images by one artist or photographer may be incorporated into any one multimedia program. From a published collective work, not more than 10% or 15 images, whichever is less, may be used."

The following are general guidelines for photocopying materials in support of your classroom lecture. These suggested guidelines are based on our interpretation of Circular 21 [pdf]. Please note that these "best practices" may not fit every situation.  Moreover, the courts are not bound by these guidelines and the Copyright Act contains no such guidelines, therefore it's advisable that you still conduct a Fair Use Evaluation

The limits:

  • Poem less than 250 words
  • Excerpt of 250 words from a poem greater than 250 words
  • Articles, stories, or essays less than 2,500 words
  • Excerpt from a longer work (10% of work or 1,000 words, whichever is less)
  • One chart, picture, diagram, graph, cartoon or picture per book or per periodical issue
  • Two pages (maximum) from an illustrated work less than 2,500 words (usually books for children)

In addition...

  • No more than one copy per student. Usage must be “at the instance of inspiration of a single teacher" and when the time frame doesn't allow enough time for asking permission
  • Only for one course
  • No more than nine instances per class per term (current news publications such as newspapers can be used more often)
  • Don't create anthologies
  • Don't do it every term
  • Copies may be made only from legally acquired originals
  • If time allows, always seek permission from the publisher
  • Can't be directed by "higher authority" (i.e. your boss, supervisor, etc.)
  • Copying can't be a substitute for buying (i.e., faculty who do not want to make their students purchase the book)

The following are suggested limits for copying music in support of your classroom lecture. These suggested limits are based on our interpretation of guidelines that were developed during CONFU. The use of portions larger than those described here may also be permissible, but the user must test a particular application against all four factors of the "Fair Use doctrine" contained in the law (Title 17, U.S. Code, Sec. 107) to determine if it qualifies as fair.

Also, please note that it is permissible to create a compilation CD of separate music tracks for classroom use, if it adheres to the below proportions and limits. These "best practices" may not fit every situation.  Moreover, the courts are not bound by these guidelines and the Copyright Act contains no such guidelines, therefore it's advisable that you still conduct a Fair Use Evaluation

The Limits

  • Film or video: may use 10% or up to 3 minutes
  • Music, lyrics, or music video: may use 10% or 30 seconds with no change to character or work or melody

The Butler Streaming Server

Faculty wanting to copy entire movies to the Butler Streaming Server will first need to obtain written permission from the publisher.  Please see this link for information concerning permissions letters, etc.  If permission is denied the library may be able to purchase a streamed movie from its vendor.  What follows are the guidelines and expectations for this process: 


  • Contacts rights holder and ask for permission to copy and stream DVD
  • If permission is granted faculty needs to provide written proof of permission to Josh Petrusa ( / x9236) who will forward the letter to the Center for Academic Technology
  • If denied by rights holder, faculty will need to provide the library pedagogical justification* for the purchase of the streamed movie from our vendor

*i.e. the reason for streaming vs. showing the DVD in class or placing on course reserve at the library for students to view on their own


  • If faculty is denied permission, the library will check our streaming movie provider for movie availability
  • The library will purchase the streamed movie from our vendor if pedagogical justification is provided and if we can justify the cost for the associated subject area (i.e. $30 for a DVD vs $150 to lease a streamed movie for one semester)
  • If pedagogical justification is lacking, the library will attempt to purchase the required DVDs and place on course reserve for the course in question

CONFU guidelines clarify the application of fair use of copyrighted works in the digital educational environment. CONFU guidelines are particularly useful for educators and students who are working on educationally-related projects like video podcasting, multimedia projects utilizing sound and videos, etc.

CONFU recommendations allow you to use small portions of multimedia works without obtaining copyright permissions. Following CONFU guidelines you may:

  • Incorporate portions of copyrighted works when creating your own multimedia projects for educational or instructional purposes.
    • Students may incorporate "portions" of copyrighted materials for a course-specific project.
    • Students may display their own projects, use them in their E-portfolios, illustrate in a job interview or use as part of their admissions application for a different college.
    • Faculty may use their projects for teaching, distance education, remote instruction, conference presentations, presentations, or those activities that can be tied to their teaching or professional development.
  • Give attribution to the original source (i.e. cite your source!) of all copyrighted material that you use.
  • Place a copyright notice on the opening screen of the multimedia program and accompanying print material that states: "Certain materials in this multimedia presentation are included under the fair use exemption of the U.S. Copyright Law and are restricted from further use."
  • Fair use exemptions of the copyrighted materials expires at the end of two years. To use the multimedia project beyond two years requires the appropriate copyright permissions. 


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Irwin Library: 317-940-9227
Science Library: 317-940-9937

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