Guidelines for Posting Copyrighted Works in Electronic Courseware

TEACH Act, Web Sites & Courseware

When selecting articles for your course web site, department web site, or personal web site, post only those articles you have authored or articles you have never posted before. An electronic link to the article is always preferable to downloading, scanning, and copying. In fact, the article may be readily available in digital format through a database on the library's web site.

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act) became law in November 2002. It allows for a limited number of articles to be posted electronically on a web site as long as each article is integral to the course. This means that each posted reading must be required reading, rather than suggested reading. Please do not post the entire content of an article on your web site unless you have permission from the copyright owner (e.g., creative commons licenses may allow this). Instead, post a link to each article.

If you wish to provide suggested readings, please use the University Libraries' Electronic Reserves system. When you use the Electronic Reserves, Print Reserves, and Media Reserves services, library staff will seek the required clearances and pay any applicable royalty fees, if the proposed use of any copyrighted work appears to go beyond fair use limitations.

Fair use is a complex and often confusing concept. Use this worksheet, created by the Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office, to determine whether your use is a fair one or not (Fair use-checklist). Consider each of the four fair use factors and weigh them equally: 1) What is the PURPOSE of your use?, 2) What is the NATURE of the work to be copied?, 3) What is the AMOUNT of the work you wish to use in relation to the work as a whole?, and 4) What is the EFFECT of your use on the market for or value of the work as a whole?

In addition, for a use to be considered fair, a complete citation must be included on the first page of each item. Public Domain sources must be correctly attributed, and online source citations should have a complete URL.

Please refer to the University Libraries' Copyright Resources Office homepage for links to Title 17, U.S. Code §107, and to applicable George Mason University Policies (

Please follow these guidelines when proposing to digitize readings, images, text, graphics, etc., for a web site hosted by a university server and accessed by students registered in a course of study taught via George Mason University. If you have any questions, please contact the Copyright Resources Office.

Examples of items that may need permission requests include: