Common Questions & Examples

  • American Geophysical Union v. Texaco, Inc.American Geophysical Union and 82 other publishers which sold journal subscriptions to Texaco alleged that Texaco’s employees infringed their copyrights by repeatedly photocopying individual journal articles without permission and distributing them. The court found that this was not fair use because Texaco’s actions were “part of a systematic
    process of encouraging employee researchers to copy articles so as to multiply available copies while avoiding payment.” The court found that employees were copying whole articles and that such copying interfered with the commercial value of the articles.
  • Basic Books, Inc. v. Kinko’sKinko’s used course readings lists from colleges and, without asking permission or paying copyright fees, photocopied excerpts from assigned readings to create “course packets,” which they sold to students at a profit. The court found that this was not fair use, as it was for a commercial purpose and would harm publishers’ sales. The court also noted that there was no compelling educational reason to copy the materials without permission or paying fees.
  • Camridge University Press v. PattonCambridge University Press (and others) sued Georgia State University for infringing copyright by allowing unlicensed portions of their works to be posted on university systems for students to obtain electronically. The court found that most of the instances were fair use, and that a “holistic analysis” of each instance was required to “carefully balance” all four Fair Use factors. The court also noted that not all four factors must be given equal weight.
  • Posner on Copyright – 10 Cases to Remember
  • Princeton University Press v. Michigan Document Services, Inc.Michigan Document Services, Inc., a commercial photography shop, copied significant portions of written materials that were assigned readings for University of Michigan courses. They assembled these materials into “coursepacks” offered for sale to students. The copyright owners of the materials sued. The court found that this was not Fair Use. The court pointed to the commercial nature of the business and the profit made from the coursepacks, as well as the potential damage to the market for the copyrighted works.
  • Stanford University Libraries – Summaries of Fair Use CasesSummarizes a variety of Fair Use court cases, some academic and some not. Include cases where Fair Use was found, as well as cases where it was not.
  • U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use IndexAn index of federal court cases court cases regarding fair use.
  • Univeristy of Florida – Summary of Cases on Copyright in EducationSummary of several cases involving educational arguments in a copyright dispute, including links to materials on each case such as commentary, lawyers’ arguments, and case opinions.

Can I post a PDF of a journal article the library subscribes to in my Moodle Course?

Maybe. Generally speaking, if an item meets the requirements set out under Fair Use or the TEACH Act, materials can be shared in a password protected learning management system like Moodle for a limited period of time. Factors to consider are how many students will have access to the course and how long the materials will be available, including whether it will be available for multiple semesters. More students and longer access weigh against fair use. You will need to consider the Fair Use factors to decide whether your use of the materials falls under Fair Use.

However, even if it is considered fair use, some library database user agreements may prohibit the sharing of articles or other materials in this way, so the best practice is to link to the article in the database by using a permanent URL, rather than uploading the PDF. This will also allow students to access the most up to date version of the material.

Can I show a DVD or Blu-Ray video in my classroom?

Yes, as long as it is for classroom instruction and no admission fee is charged.

Can I show a DVD or Blu-Ray video in a non-classroom context?

Generally not, unless permission has been obtained from the copyright holder.

Can I Stream a Netflix (or other streaming service) Video in My Classroom?

If you are using a video streaming service licensed through the library or your department that is intended for that purpose, yes. You can see the options available via the library here

What about personal streaming services?

Netflix does allow some films to be shown in an educational context under certain conditions. See their page here for details. You can search to see which films may be shown by educators.

However, make sure you are using approved films only, as most user agreements do not allow public screenings. “When one signs a license agreement, he or she often gives away certain freedoms, such as copyright exceptions. The Netflix user agreement overtly conveys “the Software is only for your own personal, non-commercial use and not for use in the operation of a business or service bureau, for profit or for the benefit or any other person or entity.” Most copyright attorneys comprehend the phrase “for your own personal… use” as giving away your statutory exceptions to use section 110(1) and even section 107 (fair use).” – Kris Helge, Scholarly Communications Librarian at the University of North Texas. “May One Stream a Netflix Video for In-Class Use?”

If you wish to use a streaming service to show a video in your classroom, you will need to check your user agreement to see if it prohibits you from using it for a public showing.

Can I post a PDF of a journal article to my faculty website?

Probably not. If the website is available to the general public and is not password protected, this would probably not be considered a Fair Use because you cannot be sure it will only be used for academic purposes.

Can I copy articles to create a Course Pack for my students?

Probably not. Generally speaking, you need to ask copyright permission before reproducing copyrighted materials for use in a course pack. However, information in the Public Domain would be an exception.

Can I photocopy one article from a journal for my own personal use?

Yes, this would probably be considered Fair Use.

Can I make materials from the university archives publicly available online?

It depends. If the materials are still covered by copyright, it may not be possible to make the materials publicly available on-line, unless the donor has given permission. Materials need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Can I use copyrighted photos or music in my classroom presentation?

Yes, this would generally be considered a fair use of the materials if it is for instructional purposes. You should make sure you cite the original creator, however.

Can I use copyrighted materials in an open-access educational course? Can my students use copyrighted materials in an open-access project?

Probably not. Generally a distinction is made between a password protected on-line course and websites or courses that are not password protected.