Copyright and Fair Use

Review this page to answer your copyright questions. Each faculty member must decide if they are in compliance with Fair Use guidelines.

Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines

The Fair Use exception to copyright owner's rights is a weighing of factors by the individual applying the Fair Use exception.

U. S. Copyright Law Section 106, Exclusive rights in copyrighted works (linked below), grants specific rights to the copyright holder to:

  • reproduce (duplicate),
  • distribute,
  • display and
  • prepare derivative works.

Duplication of copyright materials may be allowed under fair use provisions of the U.S. copyright law (17 U.S.C.A. Section 107). It is the responsibility of the instructor making copies, placing copies on reserve, or posting documents to online course pages to consider whether the fair use exemption will allow the duplication of materials protected by copyright.

Two key guidelines to consider are the amount of the work copied and whether it is to be used repeatedly. For example, if a photocopy is to be placed on reserve for more than one semester, permission should be obtained. Also, duplication of several chapters of a book would generally not fall under the fair use exemption.

If in doubt, permission to copy should be requested from the publisher by e-mailing the publisher's permissions and copyright office. A reference librarian can assist you with locating publishers.

Remember that reproduction of materials protected by copyright, including materials under the fair use exemption, must display the copyright notice and copyright date. Full source information should also be included on the duplicated material.

Copyright and Videos

Fair Use guidelines permit the showing of library videos (from DVDs or streaming videos databases) for personal viewing or face-to-face instruction, such as in a classroom. Public Performance Rights (PPR) are required for other group showings. 

Amazon Prime, Netflix and other commercial streaming services generally do not permit their streaming services to be used outside a home setting. Check for permission before using in a classroom setting. There are some exceptions.

Music Copyright Issues

The SUNY Office of General Counsel advises SUNY campuses on obtaining content rights. Working with other organizations, the office created these documents to assist SUNY colleges with music copyright laws and rights:

Tales From the Public Domain: Digital Comic Book

Duke Law School created this entertaining 70+-page digital comic book about the public domain and copyright law. It illustrates fair use by using materials in the public domain. 

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