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Library Liaisons Toolkit: Copyright & Fair Use

Resources to help UF Libraries liaisons in their instruction and outreach

Code of Best Practices

Released in January 2012, the ARL's Code of Best Practices of Fair Use in Academic Libraries identifies the relevance of fair use in eight recurrent situations for librarians:

  • Supporting teaching and learning with access to library materials via digital technologies
  • Using selections from collection materials to publicize a library’s activities, or to create physical and virtual exhibitions
  • Digitizing to preserve at-risk items
  • Creating digital collections of archival and special collections materials
  • Reproducing material for use by disabled students, faculty, staff, and other appropriate users
  • Maintaining the integrity of works deposited in institutional repositories
  • Creating databases to facilitate non-consumptive research uses (including search)
  • Collecting material posted on the web and making it available

Click here for the ARL Webcast announcing the release of the Code

FAQ on the Code for Librarians

Common Copyright Questions from Faculty

How do I know if a work is in the Public Domain?
Calculating the expiration of an item's copyright protection can be tricky. Several factors must be considered including the date of publication, whether the registration requirement (if in effect) was complied with, and the mortality of the author. Cornell University maintains a very handy chart to aid in the determination of copyright status.


Can I stream this video to my online class?
As more classes move to an online or blended format, questions about the streaming of audiovisual materials in online courses become more common. Faculty from any discipline are permitted to create digital clips from DVDs; the exception to the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is no longer restricted to film studies faculty. The TEACH Act speaks specifically to the performance or display of audiovisual works in distance courses. Only reasonable and limited portions of dramatic audiovisual works may be digitally reproduced and transmitted, however, under the terms of the TEACH Act. Be mindful of works marketed specifically for distance education or films accompanied by a license or terms of use prohibiting the streaming of any portion of the work in an online or distance course. The TEACH Act does not render Fair Use in applicable, and the four factor analysis can be used and is preferred over the TEACH Act.

There are many great alternatives to digitizing a library or personally owned copy of a DVD. Advocate the use of licensed streaming video resources such as those by Alexander Street Press, suggest students in the course have a Netflix account (there are thousands of documentary, foreign language, and classic films available for streaming and rental), or research whether the film is already available online through a legal source (e.g. PBS streams many of its programs free online).

For more information on showing films in class, please see

Can I incorporate this media clip into the presentation I'm giving at a conference?
Fair Use applies to the incorporation of media into presentations at an educational or research event.

As long as I'm using this material to teach my class it's Fair Use, right?
A very common misconception among faculty is that so long as the use is educational, it is fair use. However, there is no blanket exception to the Copyright Act for educational use. Rather, the fact that the use is for educational purposes weighs the balance of the first factor in favor of fair use. The other three factors must still be evaluated before making a determination that fair use applies.

See for more information.

Can I post this journal article from XYZ Database in my course site for my students to read?
Most database license agreements address the use of content contained in the database and such a use may be prohibited. Whenever possible, it is the preferred practice to provide a persistent link to an article found in a database rather than pulling a PDF copy out of the database for posting elsewhere. Faculty teaching online may wish to post materials to their course site. They may still utilize the e-reserves service, however, and they should be advised not to post copies of materials in contravention to e-resource licenses.

I can make as many copies of this article I wrote as I want, correct?
Faculty often don't realize that they may have signed away their own copyrights when entering into a publication agreement for their scholarly articles. Unless they have published in an open access journal or negotiated a publication agreement that allowed them to retain certain rights, they may very well have no copyright in the article whatsoever and would have to utilize fair use or pay royalty fees to use their own work. If such a question arises, this would be an excellent opening to discuss open access.


Copyright Tools for Librarians

Creative Commons


Librarians should utilize Creative Commons licensing for their own work and advocate its use by those in academia. Such licensing allows the creator to clearly communicate to others how their work may be used. Also, through the Creative Commons website, you can also locate permission-free music and images that can be used by faculty and students.

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Creative Commons License
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