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Copyright: Guidelines

Quick Guide

  • Digital copies of personal materials - no restriction.
  • Digital copies of student work - permission / requirement
  • Links to Web pages - no restriction.
  • Digital copies of copyrighted materials: include

    • 1 chapter
    • Password protection
    • PDF file and set for view only/print.
    • Articles from a full text database - w/licensing agreement
    • Owned by the library or acquired through interlibrary loan.
    • Material found on Web pages - w/permission
    • Removed at end of term


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 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 a personal webpage 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 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)


Orphan Works

The term "orphan work" is used to describe a situation where it is difficult or impossible to contact the copyright holder of a copyrighted work. This situation can arise for many reasons. The author could have never been publicly known because the work was published anonymously or the work may have never been published at all. Even if the author is known, the copyright may have been transferred to a relative, estate, or publisher. Nearly any work where a reasonable effort to locate the current copyright owner fails can be considered orphaned.

Should you use an orphaned work? Quite simply, you should balance your need against the potential risk of being sued by an unidentifed rights holder. In addition, before using the work you might also consider these alternatives:

Fair Use

Consider the "potential market" for the work in question, and the possible harm to that market caused by your use of the work. If you discover that there is no way to acquire the proper permissions, you should reevaluate the fourth factor in the fair use analysis. You may find that this factor now weighs in favor of fair use. For more information, see Fair Use.

Locate Alternatives

Can you locate a similar source with an identifiable copyright holder? If so then contact that rights holder and seek out the appropriate permissions. Or, you might also be able to locate an equivalent source that is in the public domain. 

Rethink Your Intended Use

Rather than use the entire work can you cite a small portion of the work or even paraphrase relevant points? Relying on quotations, paraphrasing, and proper citation methods can often help you avoid the copyright permissions process altogether.

Some Suggested Resources


The following are suggested limits for copying music in support of your classroom lecture. These suggested limits are based on an 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.

The limits:

Medium Proportion Limits Additional Guidelines
Film or Video 10% Up to 3 minutes n/a
Music, lyrics, music video 10% 30 seconds No change to character of work or melody