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Copyright & Fair Use

This is an academic guide on copyright and fair use.


Copying of copyrighted materials for student learning and research use without written permission may occur in the following instances:

Single copying for teachers

Single copies may be made of any of the following by or for professors at their individual request for scholarly research or use in teaching or preparation to teach a class:

  • One chapter from a book;
  • An article from a periodical, journal, or newspaper;
  • A short story, short essay, or short poem, whether or not from a collective work;
  • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book,periodical, or newspaper.

Multiple copies for student learning use

Multiple copies (not to exceed more than one copy per student in a course) may be made by or for the teacher giving the course for student learning use or discussion; provided that the following three criteria are met:

  • The copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity (as defined below).
  • The copying meets the cumulative effect test (as defined below).
  • Each copy includes a notice of copyright. An example is "this material may be protected by Copyright law (title 17, US Code)."


Brevity: Either a complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words, (usually varies 3-8 pages depending on size of page and type) or an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1,000 words or 10 percent of the work, whichever is greater.

Spontaneity: The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher, and the inspiration and decision to use the work.The moment of its use for maximum teaching effectiveness are so close in time that it would be unreasonable to expect a timely reply to a request for permission.

Cumulative effect: Copying of the material is for only one course in the school in which the copies are made.

Computer software is tangible material and can be copyrighted. The Doctrine of Fair Use applies to computer software.

Permissible uses of copyrighted software owned by or licensed to the University or its faculty:

  • Copying it by using it in a computer's memory.
  • Making one backup or archival copy.
  • Making adaptations in order to use a particular machine.
  • Lending it.
  • Selling it, in which case the backup or archival copy must be destroyed.

Prohibited uses of copyrighted software:

  • Making copies for gift or sale.
  • Copying a computer program purchased for use at the University in order to use it at home.
  • Copying a computer program purchased for use in one department or school for use in another department or school. A site license should be negotiated to allow multiple uses on campus.

*Print reserves are unavailable during the COIVID-19 pandemic.

Faculty can request items be placed on Course Reserves at the Library.  Faculty must complete a request form and a copyright clearance form. 

Print Reserves (Traditional):

  • Copies are kept behind the Circulation Desk and may circulate for periods designated by the instructor
  • Some items may be "Library Use Only," where they are only available for use in the Library.
  • All copies are removed at the end of the semester.  Faculty copies are returned to their owners and Library copies are returned to their original location in the Library.

Electronic Reserves (eReserves):

  • Materials are password protected. 
  • Materials placed on e-reserves are kept for one semester.
  • The library will only scan 1 chapter (or 10% of a non-chapter book) or 1 journal article per issue into eReserves.
  • For journal articles or book chapters, the full citation is included in the document.

Permission from copyright holders is often needed when creating course materials, research papers, and web sites. You need to obtain permission when you use a work in a way that infringes on the exclusive rights granted to a copyright holder (i.e. outside the boundaries of fair use).

Steps that need to be followed to obtain permission to use copyrighted material:

  1. Determine if permission is needed for the work you want to use.
  2. Identify the copyright holder or agent. 
  3. Send written request for permission to use. Remember to give yourself ample lead time, as the process for obtaining permissions can take months. Decide if you are willing to pay a licensing fee/royalty.
  4. If the copyright holder can't be located or is unresponsive (or if you are unwilling to pay a license fee), be prepared to use a limited amount that qualifies for fair use, or use alternative material.

Why is copyright important for faculty?

Copyright law (Title 17 of the United States Code) is dense and vague, and guidelines listed as Fair Use, and the TEACH act are not always clear.  Publishers are becoming more litigious and have filed lawsuits regarding inappropriate use of copyrighted materials at universities.

Faculty and educational institutions are given some latitude under the Fair Use Doctrine in using materials protected by copyright laws for educational purposes. A faculty member who does not follow the legal parameters of copyright may incur liability exposure.  CSU legal counsel may defend and indemnify a faculty member who is sued in the course of faithfully and legally carrying out assigned responsibilities.  However, the CSU Office of General Council may decline to defend a faculty member who willfully disregarded copyright law.

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