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Faculty Resources -- Professional Development

Library resources and information for faculty, adjuncts, and staff

Fair Use Guidelines

Copyright law grants an limited exemption for education called "fair use." The guidelines are explained and a checklist provided at the Columbia University Libraries Copyright Advisory Office. See the checklist for a detailed list of what to consider when deciding whether your use of material is exempt.

In addition, the TEACH act allows for educational use of some materials when use is limited to enrolled students in a specific course and when the material is required to meet the learning outcomes of the course. Putting material on a system that controls access, such as our LMS, helps meet these requirements.

You must consider these four areas:

Purpose--Does the purpose for which you are using the material fall within the fair use guidelines? If it's for a college class, yes.

Nature--If the material is formally published and a work of non-fiction writing, yes. Plays, movies, art, music, and novels have different rules.

Amount--Is the amount of the material only a small portion or a portion that is not central to the work as a whole?

Effect--Are you only making a few copies and will making those copies affect the sales of the material? Is there another reasonable way to provide the material? Repeated and long-term use is not allowed (as in course packets every semester). Making material available publicly online is not allowed (as in scanning a copy and putting it on an open website).


Journal Articles: Contact Ruth or Kate if you have questions about using journal articles in your classes. Generally, you may use copies of journal articles for courses, as long as you don't keep using the same article every semester. Ruth or Kate can verify whether we have paid for those articles or if a link to the full-text is available through a paid database subscription.

Movies--Most of the movies on VHS and DVD at Memorial Library do not carry "performance" rights. However, showing an entire movie to a face-to-face class, when the movie is essential to the course goals, is allowed. For non-essential movies, you may only show short clips or put them on reserve for students to view individually.

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