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Copyright & Fair Use

FAQ Introduction

All questions are assumed to be from current UO faculty, staff, or students, unless otherwise noted.  It is also assumed that use of the copyright material being discussed takes place in the U.S., regardless of origin of the material.  Assume no Creative Commons license, no public domain, and no permission granted from copyright holder.

General analysis: public domain? > permission? > fair use or other statute provision (e.g. § 110 classroom exceptions, T.E.A.C.H. Act, DCMA, First Sale Doctrine)?  A "yes" to any question generally clears the way for use!

Note: where possible, tools were selected from sites that offer a variety of help understanding and applying copyright law.  Exploring beyond a tool's specific link might help answer other questions you may have.

Copying Old Books

Can I copy this old book without permission from the copyright holder?

If it's classed as in the Public Domain in the U.S., it is not copyright protected.  To determine whether something's in the Public Domain in the U.S.:

Using Images from the Design Library's Image Collection

How can I use a photograph or image from one of the Design Library's image collections, and do I need permission first?

Collections like these are usually accompanied by specific use licenses.  Check with a librarian in the Design Library, who can then look to see whether/what terms are stated for copying and using such images. 

Absent any stated terms, you can either try to determine the copyright holder and get permission, or determine whether your use of any image(s) falls under the fair use exemption from copyright protection.  When looking at the factors to consider in your fair use analysis, note that images/photographs are often considered to be "whole works."

Some tools that might help your analysis are:

Images from ArtStor

How am I allowed to use images from ArtStor?

The UO Libraries licenses the ArtStor database for UO faculty, staff, and students.  Once in the ArtStor database, scroll to the Terms and Conditions link at the bottom of the screen, and see "Permitted Uses of the Content."

Course Materials and Faculty

What course materials can faculty copy and distribute to students?

There are three main paths to sharing materials with students:


1. Link directly to online content provided by the UO Libraries using one of these linking methods:
  • Find online content such as books, articles, films, and more, in the Library Catalog and use the button in the information for the item "Link to this item" to get a permanent link to post to Canvas  Image demonstrating how to find and copy permalink or persistent link within UO Libraries catalog. 


  • Find online content in any of our databases, and create a permanent link that goes through our UO Libraries log in system, by placing the following text at the start of the web address (url):

For more information about persistent links to UO Libraries' content, see:

2. Do your own fair use analysis of each item you are considering copying and distributing to students.
Some tools that might help your analysis are:
3. Use Open Educational Resources

Copying Textbooks On Order But Delayed

If a textbook has been ordered but has not arrived for students yet, can faculty use their own personal copy of the book to make copies for their students?

There seems to be support in the practical literature on copyright for making copies of whatever is needed in class, especially given that the copies aren't trying to substitute for purchase of the material and that each copy will then belong to an individual student.  Note that, if it's a workbook and not a textbook, making the copies would generally be prohibited.

Alternatively, consider having the textbook placed on reserve for student use.

Scanning Pictures For A Lecture

A researcher is preparing a lecture and wants a nice scan of a picture in an expensive book from the Science Library's reference collection, to put on a PowerPoint slide.  Can they make a scan from the book?  Can they copy a digitized image from an electronic version of the book?

First, check to see if the picture is in the public domain, or whether there's a Creative Commons license allowing the use.  Otherwise, copying the picture - regardless of the book's format - onto a slide without permission from the copyright holder has a good chance of being supported by fair use guidelines, especially if the lecture is for face-to-face teaching (vs. online) in the classroom, for which there is also a classroom use allowance in the copyright law.  Note that even if permission may not be needed, it's still good practice to credit the picture with a citation.  For more, see the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts at

These tools will help with your fair use analysis: 

Wayne State's Fair Use Checklist at

The American Library Association's Fair Use Evaluator at

Or, try using the more specialized Digital Image Rights Computator at


Alternatively, consider using sites that provide images with free or fee-based copying rights, such as identified at:, or

Showing Feature Films To Class Using Canvas

Can a faculty member show feature films to her class, hosted on Canvas, so that her students can watch them outside of class?

Although there is a face-to-face teaching exemption in the copyright law that generally allows showing a whole movie in a classroom, assuming watching the whole thing is essential to a teaching goal, the Canvas scenario requires a fair use analysis, and there are some possible pitfalls:  If the movie is in analog form and has to be digitized for hosting on Canvas, it's important that the digital copy be legitimate, e.g. purchased unless there was no way to buy it.  Then, there need to be measures that keep anyone outside of the class's students from viewing the movie, and the movie should only be accessible on Canvas for as long as necessary.  See also:

Alternatively, the T.E.A.C.H. Act would provide support for this faculty member, so long as the UO, the UO's IT unit for distance education, and the instructor all comply with the Act's requirements.

Using Television Clips For Training

Can administration (or faculty) show clips of TV shows for sexual harassment training purposes?

This will depend on a fair use analysis, such as might be facilitated by tools such as:

Wayne State's Fair Use Checklist at

The American Library Association's Fair Use Evaluator at

Factors to pay attention to include: 

a) Whether you already have legally acquired episodes  (bought, rented, borrowed from the library) containing the clips, versus making off-air copies of the shows yourself.

Regarding off-air taping of TV shows from major broadcast networks, see the Guidelines for Off-Air Recording of Broadcast Programming for Educational Purposes at

For off-air taping of TV shows from cable or satellite networks, you'll need to look at each network's copying rights, or get permission.

b) Whether you plan to simply put clips of those episodes onto a compilation video (= a derivative work), versus incorporating the clips into a larger video that includes original content and uses the clips in "transformative ways" (strengthens fair use).  For more, see:

c) Whether you plan to tape short segments from the TV shows onto separate tapes or DVRs and loading/showing each separately during the training (strengthens fair use).

Student Copying Feature Films For Scholarship

Can a student get copies made of the American Film Institute's "100 Best Movies" - available only in VHS format - in order to work with the films for his scholarship?  Can CMET digitize or otherwise copy them for the student?

Absent being able to buy, rent, or borrow copies, or gain permission from the copyright holder, the student will need to rely on a fair use analysis. 

Some tools that might help your analysis are:

Wayne State's Fair Use Checklist at

The American Library Association's Fair Use Evaluator at

Under section 108 of the Copyright Act, CMET can make copies of VHS that the library owns if that copy is damaged/deteriorating, and an unused copy isn't available for purchase. 

Campus Student Group Wants To Show Feature Film

A campus group wants to show a film at a campus-sponsored event (not for a CNET course).  How can the group determine if they have performance rights for a UO-owned film?  If they don't, how can they get performance rights?  If the film is from Netflix?  If from Amazon?

Check with staff in the library that has the film - they can refer you to someone who can look at acquisition records to see if there's clear indication that performance rights were bought when the film was acquired. 

Without such clear determination, the group should seek performance rights, including in the request specifics of the event.  You can contact the copyright holder or distributor of the movie directly, or try one of the larger permissions clearinghouses, such as:

Swank Motion Pictures, Inc.,

Motion Picture Licensing Corporation,

Criterion Pictures,

Netflix and Amazon provide streaming video under specific use licenses, so you'll need to direct your public performance rights request to them, but first check the license terms entered into by whatever Netflix or Amazon subscriber is providing access to the film, to see if performance (or showing) of the film is allowed.

Using Film Stills In Article Or At A Conference

Can film stills be used in an article or at a conference? 

The Society for Cinema and Media Studies' addresses the use of film stills in its best practices regarding publishing in media studies:

Because use without permission hinges on a fair use analysis, see also:, and/or

Seeking Permission To Use Images

How can I seek permission to use an image in a book or article I am writing for publication?

There are various samples available, such as at:

However, it can be difficult to find the copyright holder of individual images.  Thus, you may want to do a fair use analysis, or consider using sites that provide images with free or fee-based copying rights, such as identified at:, or

Using Sound Clips For A Presentation

Can I use sound clips for a presentation I'm giving?  Can I put the presentation on the Web?

For teachers teaching face-to-face in the classroom, there are allowances under § 110 of the Copyright act, such as cueing and playing CD's individually for the desired clip, not copying the sound onto a PowerPoint - or publishing on the Web - and then sharing with the class.  For more on using sound in teaching, see

However, there's always the possibility that - you guessed it - fair use might support these activities.  For help with your fair use analysis, try:

This site from the University of Rhode Island models fair use analysis of several scenarios involving sound clips:

Where To Go For Royalty-Free Music

Is there a place I can go to for royalty-free music?

Yes, there are a number of sites available, such as:


However, note that royalty-free music doesn't necessarily mean free music.  These sites are more apt to allow licensing of music in some blanket way so that you don't have to worry about paying royalties to each individual performer or composer.

Other sites, such as at, may identify sources for free music.

Creative Commons Licensing

What's "Creative Commons" licensing?  What's "no derivative" mean in a Creative Commons license?

Creative Commons ( licensing allows authors to specify how their works can be used, usually by rolling back some of the automatic protections that copyright law gives.  For instance, permission to use an author's work might be given to all those who are using it for educational purposes and for no profit. 

In a Creative Commons license, "no derivative," or ND, means only original copies can be made, versus modifying the original, such as with a translation, musical arrangement, movie version, etc.  For other common terms in Creative Commons licenses, see

Text Mining With Computational Programs

Can I run a corpus of books through a computational program (= text mining) if the books are owned or licensed by UO?  Can I break the DRM on an ebook I own to perform text mining?  Can I publish the results?  Can I replicate or share the data?

Depending on the licensing of the of the ebooks or other UO-owned content, you may be certainly be able to download and perform text mining activities. However, this varies depending on the vendor and bulk downloading and text mining can result in access being turned off for the entire institution if it hasn't been arranged in advance. Please contact before you get started.

Circumventing DRM on a personally purchased ebook or research is a matter of personal risk tolerance and choice; it falls in the legal gray area of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibition on circumventing access control and transformative fair use for research that may fall within a DMCA exemption. 

Depending on the requirements for publication, you may or may not be able to publish the results. If data sharing is a requirement, vendor-sourced data may not be able to be fully shared and you may not be comfortable sharing data from DRM-laden ebooks.

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