The scenarios presented on this page represent a sampling of questions frequently asked regarding the use of copyrighted materials within an educational setting. They are not meant to be representative of all the possible situations an instructor might encounter. If these particular scenarios don't clearly address your question, consider doing a fair-use analysis or contact for assistance.

Using articles in Blackboard
Professor Jones would like to scan and place a number of articles in her Blackboard course as supplementary readings for her students. For the most part, these are articles that she has used in past semesters for this course.
Scenario Articles


Professor Jones might be able to make a fair use argument for some of these articles. However, for those articles that she uses repeatedly and for articles that appear in the same issue of a journal, the fair use argument would be weaker and the proposed use would frequently require permission from the copyright holder. A better solution would be to utilize the electronic reserve service offered by the Baylor Libraries. Library staff will identify and provide links to those articles for which we have licensed online access for reserves. Library personnel will also scan print articles for Professor Jones' course. Finally, and most importantly, reserve staff will file for copyright clearance for articles that require permission. Also, the Libraries generally pay the associated copyright fees. Professor Jones would then only need to point her students to the automatically-created link in Blackboard that leads to the entire reserve list for the course both print and electronic reserve items.

Scanning a Book Professor Smith has a book which she co-authored, but it is no longer available for purchase. He often gets requests for copies of the book. She would like to scan the entire book and post it on her website. As a co-author of this book, she believes that she only needs got get permission from her co-author to proceed.


Just because a book is no longer in print, that doesn't automatically mean the author can make a copy (digital or print) of the entire work. Professor Smith needs to look at the agreement she and her co-author signed with the publisher. She may find that she and her co-author transferred some or all of their copyrights (the right to reproduce the work; the right to create derivative works; the right to distribute; the right to publicly perform the work; and the right to publicly display the work) to the publisher. If a digital copy is made and placed on a website and the publisher holds the copyright, this action infringes on the publisher's right to reproduce and the right to distribute the work. Under these circumstances, Professor Smith and her co-author need to contact the publisher to either obtain permission to copy and post the book on a website or ask the publisher to publish a new edition of the book.

Conference Presentation Professor James is giving a presentation at a national conference for her professional association. She plans to incorporate clips of music, clips from movies, and a variety of images in her presentation. The professional association plans to make all of the presentation materials available to members via their website.


Assuming Professor James is not being paid to make this presentation, using a variety of media in her PowerPoint presentation especially if they are brief clips is acceptable use. Professor James should also be sure to acknowledge the copyright holders in her presentation. However, unless Professor James obtains permission from the copyright holders, the version of the PowerPoint presentation that is placed on the organization's website cannot contain the copyrighted material.

Movies in the Classroom - Professor Hamilton would like to show several movies, such as A Beautiful Mind, in his Psychology class in order to facilitate the discussion of a variety of psychotic disorders


Section 110 (1) in the Copyright Act states that works can be displayed or performed by instructors or students under the following circumstances:

  • In a nonprofit educational institution;
  • In a face-to-face teaching activity in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction;
  • The movie(s) are an integral part of the curriculum;
  • The copy to be displayed is lawfully obtained.
Under these circumstances, there is acceptable use for Professor Hamilton to show the movies in his class. For more information, go to for a brief brochure that provides guidance in this area.

Transferring a Videotape to a DVD - Professor Hamilton wants to show the movie The Three Faces of Eve in his class, but his copy is a videocassette. The videotape is starting to show wear from frequent use and now there is no VHS equipment available to show the film. He would like the media center to copy the videotape to a DVD.
Scenario 5


In this case, if it is not possible to purchase a DVD version of the videocassette, and it is clear that the videocassette of the movie was lawfully obtained, the media center can make a DVD copy of the movie. However, if it is possible to purchase a DVD of the movie, Professor Hamilton needs to purchase it.

Transferring Movies to a format to use for Blackboard Courses - Professor Allen would like the media center to convert all of the movies he uses in his classes (some on videocassette, some on DVD) to a format that will allow her students to see them from within her Blackboard courses.


Whereas Section 110 (1) of the Copyright Act allows the display of a movie in a face-to-face classroom, Section 110 (2) provides more stringent rules regarding the transmission of digital media in an online environment. North Carolina State University (Peggy Hoon) has developed a TEACH Act Toolkit which addresses this aspect of copyright law. In particular, Professor Jones should work through these checklists to see if displaying the video online for the class is allowed and/or contact for additional assistance.

One other issue to consider -- if the digital work (DVD) is protected by Digital Rights Management -- it is a violation of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), to break or circumvent the DRM in order to make any other copies (either the entire DVD or parts of it), except for these exemptions.

The specific exemption that applies is the first one, which states:

"Motion pictures on DVDs that are lawfully made and acquired and that are protected by the Content Scrambling System when circumvention is accomplished solely in order to accomplish the incorporation of short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment, and where the person engaging in circumvention believes and has reasonable grounds for believing that circumvention is necessary to fulfill the purpose of the use in the following instances:
(i) Educational uses by college and university professors and by college and university film and media studies students;
(ii) Documentary filmmaking;
(iii) Noncommercial videos"

Distributing Copies of Articles in a Seminar - Professor Franklin teaches a graduate seminar no more than 10 students in which each of the students in the seminar is required to find a definitive article on specific research topics. Throughout the semester, each student is required to lead a discussion on article and in preparation for that discussion makes copies of the article for each of the other students in the class.


One alternative is for each student to provide a citation for each article to her classmates and make each student responsible for obtaining a copy of the article either by copying the print, accessing it online through the library, or requesting them from interlibrary loan. However, time constraints may not make this a viable alternative, so it is also a good situation for fair use analysis:

Strongly favors fair use nonprofit educational institution; teaching; directly related to the curriculum outcomes for the course; distribution restricted to students; use (of the specific articles) is occasional.

Strongly favors fair use published work; research articles are more akin to factual than creative, fictional works; important to the educational objective for the course

Somewhat favors fair use the entire article is copied and provided to the other students, but the article is only one part of the journal issue, and a portion of the article would not meet the educational objectives;

Market Affect:

Somewhat favors fair use only a few copies are made (seminars are traditionally small classes); since each article is uniquely chosen by each student, there is no text book or specific journal subscription that could be purchased in place of this approach; presumably, the articles are from lawfully owned or licensed content in the library; the only caveat is if the student has to use interlibrary loan to obtain the article; in that case, it will be more appropriate for each student to request the article from interlibrary loan; since the library doesn't own a copy of the article, copyright fees will need to be paid.

This content was created by the University of Michigan Library and was released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License. The Regents of the University of Michigan, 2007.