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Copyright & Fair Use

Information on a range of copyright-related topics, including fair use and open access.

What is Copyright?

SUNY Faculty Intellectual Property Information


Who is responsible for compliance with copyright law?

  • YOU ARE responsible for assuring that any materials you use for instruction are used in a manner that is compliant with copyright law.  Most often, in a higher education setting, the critical consideration is whether or not a use qualifies as a Fair Use exception to the exclusive rights of the copyright holder.

What do I need to do?

  • Review all materials that you use for instruction -- including slides, videos, handouts, and e-reserves -- for compliance with copyright law.  Refer to the HSL Fair Use Guidelines and other information and resources available on this page.

I wrote this article.  Do I still need to worry about copyright or Fair Use?

  • Yes!  Copyrights belong to the owner of the article, and the author of a work is not always the owner.  Tradtional contracts used by many journal publishers  transfer copyrights (i.e., ownership) from the author to the publisher.  If you are no longer the owner of the article (or book) that you wrote, you must, for purposes of copyright compliance,  treat the use of that article (or book) just like any other.

I want to include an article or book chapter in Blackboard, but it doesn't fall within Fair Use guidelines.  How do I request permission to include the item?  

  • The Copyright Clearance Center offers a service to obtain permission on a pay-per-use basis.  To determine your cost for using a particular item, complete the CCC search form at

What is Fair Use?

The "Fair Use" doctrine provides an exception, or limitation, to copyright protection under specific conditions.  Section 107 of the copyright law sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use qualifies as fair use:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
*U.S. Copyright Office Circular 21 (Revised 8/2014; emphasis added).  Link to the complete document below.

Association of Research Libraries "Know Your Copyrights"

What is the TEACH Act?

  • On November 2nd, 2002, the "Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act" (the TEACH Act), part of the larger Justice Reauthorization legislation (H.R. 2215), was signed into law by President Bush.
  • Long anticipated by educators and librarians, TEACH redefines the terms and conditions on which accredited, nonprofit educational institutions throughout the U.S. may use copyright protected materials in distance education-including on websites and by other digital means--without permission from the copyright owner and without payment of royalties.
  • "...fair use continues to apply to the scanning, uploading, and transmission of copyrighted materials for distance education, even after enactment of the TEACH Act."

* Adapted from New Copyright Law for Distance Education: The Meaning and Importance of the TEACH Act Prepared for ALA by: Kenneth D. Crews, Director, Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office