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Copyright & Fair Use

Understanding the ins and outs of copyright is challenging. The best advice is usually to know where to find the information when you need it, which is why we've compiled this research guide.

Examples of Copyright & Fair Use

Example Questions & Scenarios


The “answers” below do NOT constitute legal advice. They are theoretical since they do not pertain to actual, specific cases in which to determine fair use or copyright compliance. They are presented here to illustrate realistic or possible scenarios with examples of considerations that could be given to those scenarios.

Example Questions or Scenarios

Example Questions & Scenarios

Question 1

Q. I would like to create my own anthology of readings for a course drawing one or two chapters from about six different textbooks. Is that okay?


A. Does this in the first place meet all four of the Fair Use criteria? Not likely. Further, the “Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-For-Profit Educational Institutions with respect to books and periodicals” (1976) contains this “prohibition” regarding copyrighted content: [that it…] “shall not be used to create or to replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works.” (See, p. 7.)

[An exception to this would be an anthology drawn from “Open” textbooks or “Open Educational Resources” that have been disseminated under a Creative Commons or similar license. The Open Textbook Library represents one collection of accessible textbooks.]

Question 2

Q. I want to use an article from a journal to which the Zondervan Library subscribes. Can I scan that article and upload it to Blackboard?


A. This could accord with fair use and other copyright law provisions if access is limited to authenticated users of a specific course. A better recourse is to create and post to Blackboard a permanent link to the article provided by the library.

Question 3

Q. I want to use a film in class that I can get to under my Netflix account which I pay for myself. Is there a problem with that?


A. This question first raises implications for the Netflix “Terms of Use” which appears to limit authorized use to personal use. The content has not been licensed expressly by Taylor University for curricular or campus viewing. (The Zondervan Library has implemented a service called Kanopy in summer 2018 that does provide broader curricular and campus licensing, however, that service does not provide everything that Netflix offers.) The University LIbrarian drafted a statement about curricular use of Netflix in 2014 that still pertains:

The matter is somewhat more complicated. Netflix does make available “some original educational documentaries … for one-time educational screenings.” This entails a limited number of titles that can be identified here:

The Funderburg Library, Manchester University provides an informative overview of why using Netflix and other video streaming services for instructional purposes is unwarranted: Can I show Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. videos in my classroom?

Question 4

Q. Anything on the web can be put on Brightspace, right?


A. In short, “no!” There is much content on the web in violation of copyright. Of course, there is also much content that is shared under Creative Commons licensing or stated for public domain. The challenge is to ascertain the copyright holder which can be quite challenging. And, fair use criteria should be invoked in such cases. At the very least, attribution should be stated to a specific web source from which content is used.

question 5

Q. There is a book that I need for my research. It's out-of-print so that I think I can make a copy of it.


A. “Out-of-print” does not equate to “out of copyright” or in public domain. Copyright persists for a work as long as the law prescribes. See this document to get an introduction to the complexities of copyright duration: You may be able to find a copy of the out-of-print book for purchase and one channel that aggregates books for sale from many vendors is

Question 6

Q. I want to create a digital journal of .pdf files of the best student papers in the department's capstone course. I was told that the University has the right to do this since those papers were submitted for academic credit.


A. Students retain copyright to their academic work. This is prescribed in Taylor’s Intellectual Property Policy (in the Faculty Handbook,16.3). The exception would be for student work as a University employee which then constitutes “work for hire.” However, the IP Policy also designates that “the University shall have royalty-free right to use any Academic Work within the University, unless otherwise agreed in writing between the creator(s) and the University.” It would, however, present a proper protocol and respect for student intellectual property to ascertain consent from students before collecting and publicly disseminating their work. If permission is not granted, it would be prudent not to include that student work in a collection made public.

Question 7

Q. I really don't have time to consider all four of the fair use criteria. Won't it suffice just to review one or two of them?


A. The Fair Use framework itself constitutes guidelines that require judgement on a case-by-case basis. You must identify and consider the facts of the case. Obviously, some judgements can be made more readily than others. To render a full consideration of fair use one should apply all four criteria since these are the criteria that could be considered in any judicial proceeding. It has been said that the first and fourth criteria carry more weight. Better be safe than sorry. Assess the case on the basis of all four criteria and document your assessment. The Fair Use Evaluator (American Library Association) is one tool that provides guidance for assessing and documenting a case.

Question 8

Q. Who will ever know if I scan several chapters from the textbook that I used to have students purchase? It's gotten so expensive. I want to help keep down the cost of textbooks.


A. Leaving aside the factors of personal integrity and alignment with the Life Together Covenant, this would appear to be a flagrant violation of copyright, beyond justification through fair use. You could incur financial liability should a copyright holder(s) seek legal recourse to your willful misuse of their copyrighted content. (Copyright law designates “Remedies for infringement: Damages and profits” -- 17 U.S. Code § 504 ( In short, make prudent decisions that should avoid having to be concerned about such “remedies.” Also, ask the University Librarian about eBook alternatives, including “Open Textbooks.”

Question 9

Q. I can't clearly decide if using the performances I want to show constitutes fair use.


A. “When in doubt, don’t.” That’s probably an overstatement. Perhaps it should read when in “strong” or “heavy” doubt don’t use copyrighted material. Consider other recourse. Consult the University Librarian who can explore licensing possibilities. Consider alternative resources. Consider the quantity to be used and the context (e.g., face-to-face instruction).

Question 10

Q. Where can I find images to illustrate my PowerPoint presentations that don't infringe upon copyright?


A. A good place to begin searching for images is the Creative Commons search engine: CC Search. This provides a tool for searching images on multiple search engines and sites simultaneously. Note also that Youtube has a “filter” tool for limiting a search to “CC” (Creative Commons) licensed resources. Attribution should always be expressed for an image, video, or other copyrighted content.

Question 11

Q. I have my own purchased, personal copies of music, so it's okay to make copies for student rehearsal, right?


A. Whether you own a copy of the original, download it via purchase, or borrow it from a library, this sounds like copyright infringement. A copy of a brief excerpt of a score or recording for analysis might be justified under fair use but do consider all four factors. For recorded music, be sure to explore the Naxos Music Library available through the Zondervan Library. A composition reproduced from a published score or recording that is in public domain most likely can be reproduced.

Question 12

Q. How do I protect my own scholarly or creative work?


A. Two very useful “Circulars” from the U.S. Copyright Office provide information about registering copyright for one’s work. Circular 1 provides background about copyright and an introduction to securing copyright. Circular 2 provides details about copyright registration.

Other Guides

More Scenarios


Here are two informative sites with other questions and qualified answers both of which are worthy of perusal:

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