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Copyright FAQs

Q. What is "fair use"?
A.

It's what you are allowed by law to photocopy -- at the moment of inspiration, when there's not enough time to seek permission -- commonly referred to as "spontaneous fair use." For example:

  1. A single chapter (and less than 10% of the total work) from a book...but only one semester. *Up to nine (9) spontaneous use items (articles/chapters) may be submitted as separate packets. The same item may not be submitted for any subsequent semester as spontaneous use (see Guidelines).
    OR
  2. Up to three articles from a periodical volume, submitted as one spontaneous use, as long as you have not used these articles for this class in any previous semester. This includes newspapers
    OR
  3. Any combination of the above (1. and 2.) to total nine (9) spontaneous use readings, per course, per semester.
    PLUS
    - Your own work - lecture notes, articles, etc.
    - Documents from the U.S. Government printing office and other public domain items

Q. What's this "9" thing?
A. This number appears in the Agreement on Guidelines (Begins at the bottom of page 7 in Circular 21 from the Library of Congress Copyright Office) which accompanied the Report of the House Committee on the Judiciary (House Report No. 94- 1476) at the time of the Copyright Act of 1976. It refers to the number of spontaneous uses suggested, per semester.
 
Q. How many articles am I allowed to put into a reader?
A. There is no limit to the number of articles in a reader as long as permission has been obtained from each publisher.
 
Q. I've always used these 6 articles; why can't I use them this time?
A. When you use any of the same articles you've used in the past, it no longer qualifies as "spontaneous use."
 
Q. 10% or one chapter -- "whichever is less"?
A. If you have a 600 page book which is divided into 60 chapters of 10 pages each, you should not feel obligated to select just one chapter when it is so obviously a small amount. So, please select up to 60 pages to copy, making the 10% the more important factor.
 
Up through May 1997, the Conference on Fair Use (CONFU) prepared final versions of the following proposed educational fair use guidelines: Digital Images; Distance Learning; Multimedia; Electronic Reserve Systems; Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery; Use of Computer Software in Libraries. Although the Proposed guidelines are not yet widely accepted, the University Copyright Assistance Office is staying abreast of new developments in the digital environments. Please call if you have specific questions which are not addressed here.

Q. I've found a great journal article on the Web on a topic related to the course I'm teaching now. May I download it to my course web page?
A. As soon as you "put something up" on the Web, you become a publisher. If you do not have time to seek permission and you do not intend to keep it up or to use it again, this use would (should) fall under spontaneous fair use, one time only.

Q. But I want to use it every time I teach this course. May I at least provide a link?
A. Yes. Since the whole concept of the World Wide Web is to create a web of knowledge, creating an HREF link (the most common type) is precisely what you should do...provided there is nothing on your page to which the publisher/author of the linked page would object. If you have ANY doubt, write for permission to link.

Q. I just printed an article off the internet to add to my reader. The internet is public domain, right?
A. Wrong. Unless an explicit statement of release accompanies the article, please seek permission before including it in your reader. Include the full URL in your bibliographic citation. This includes The Washington Post and the New York Times.
 
Q. I use PowerPoint for my in-class lectures. May I add (digitize) charts, graphs and other pages from the course textbook to my PowerPoint presentation?
A. Yes, as long as you are not incorporating more than 10% of the book, and only for one course and only one semester. For repeated use, seek permission from the publisher of the textbook. It is helpful if the textbook in question is the required text for the course. This permission is usually free, but the publisher wants detailed information about your exact application.

 

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