Hege Library & Learning Technologies

Copyright, Fair Use, & Intellectual Property

FAQ's and Best Practices

Q. Isn't any educational use considered fair use?

A. Unfortunately, not. Purpose and character of the use (i.e., educational) is only one of four factors determining fair use. Educational use does favor fair use but other factors may weigh against fair use (e.g., nature of the work, amount copied, effect on the market). Please contact copyright@guilford.edu with questions and for further consultation. 


Q. Can PDFs of articles be posted on class Canvas courses for students to read?

A. Providing a link to content is always be best choice;  in accordance with these guidelines:

  • Links to library licensed content can be shared in Canvas or via email. The permalink should be shared to ensure students can access both on and off-campus. A permalink includes the College’s EZProxy prefix information so that when accessing from off-campus users are prompted to login and authenticate through Guilford. Most databases will have a permalink or off-campus link option that may be copied and pasted; however, if that information is not available, it may easily be added in using the tool provided by Hege Library & Learning Technologies.

  • Users may access materials in the public domain freely.

  • Users may access  material freely if the copyright is owned by that individual  (e.g., exams, syllabi, notes)

  • Users may open access materials according to the terms of the Creative Commons License

  • Users may access copyrighted materials under fair use (i.e., without securing permission) for only one semester AND restrict access to registered class members only. 

  • Please be advised that more stringent guidelines may apply to images, graphics, video, sound, etc.

Q. An instructor would like to post several articles and book chapters they wrote on their Canvas page. Is this possible?

A. Yes, but only under fair use or if the instructor retained the appropriate copyright privileges. Otherwise, it will be necessary to check with the publisher or rightsholder.

Q. What about other kinds of materials for my home page or Canvas site (e.g., video, audio, images)?

A. Instructors should consult the Center for Media and Social Impact site for links to best practice documents for using images and other media for teaching and research. The Visual Resources Association’s (VRA) Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research and Study is especially useful where images are concerned.

Q. Can instructors link to other websites from their Canvas course?

A. Generally, this is permitted. Instructors should include an acknowledgement to the author or creator.

Q. How do creators copyright their own materials?

A. Copyright protection is automatic for materials "fixed in a tangible medium" (i.e., written, recorded, etc.). If a creator wishes to register their copyright, they can go to the U.S. Copyright Office website. Note: this is not required but may help if a creator wishes to file a complaint about copyright violation.

Q. How can it be determined if a work is under copyright or in the public domain?

A. It is recommended to first examine the work for a copyright statement and/or to consult the various tools under Is it Still in Copyright from Stanford University.

The Discovery, Systems, and Digital Strategies Librarian is the College’s Copyright Compliance Officer. For further information or consultation, contact copyright@guilford.edu

Q. What are the four factors that determine fair use?

A. Fair use (Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976) balances the rights of copyright holders with the needs of scholars to promote teaching, research and the free exchange of ideas. Fair use defines particular circumstances in which it is permissible to use copyrighted material, free from permissions and royalties. The four factors considered in weighing fair use are:

  • The purpose and character of the use. Use in non-profit, educational teaching and research, or for criticism, commentary or news reporting, makes a finding of fair use more likely; commercial use makes a finding of fair use less likely. However, not all educational uses are fair uses.

  • The nature of the copyrighted work. Using works that are factual (e.g., historical data, scientific information, etc.) tends to weigh in favor of a finding of fair use; creative or unpublished works tend to indicate the need for copyright permission.

  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used. Use of small portions of a work usually favors a finding of fair use as long as the portion does not constitute "the heart of the work". The more material used the greater the balance away from fair use.

  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for the work. Use that substitutes for the purchase of a book, reprint or subscription weighs against a finding of fair use.

Clearly these factors are subject to varying interpretations and applications. For further guidance, see a Fair Use Analysis Checklist from Columbia University.

Q. Where are guidelines or rules of thumb to help determine fair use practices?

A. Many professional groups and disciplines have begun to establish best practice documents which are useful in making fair use decisions. See the University of Minnesota’s Guidelines and Best Practices page for information on how to use a best practices document, and consult the Center for Media and Social Impact for links to the many best practice documents now available for various disciplines.