Library About Policies Copyright Compliance

Information Technology Guidelines for Use of Copyrighted Materials

Fairfield University recognizes and respects all copyright rights. To assist with common requests, Information Technology has established these guidelines regarding the use of copyrighted materials by the University community.


Copyright is a form of legal protection for original works of authorship, whether published or unpublished, such as literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (e.g., poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture).1 Works that can be protected by copyright receive protection when created; there is no requirement of a copyright notice or registration. 2 Copyright owners hold rights related to reproduction, adaptation, publication, performance, and display of the work.3 Not all works have copyright protection, and copyrights may expire. In those instances where copyright does not apply or has expired, the work is deemed to have entered the public domain and generally can be used freely.

Fair Use

Under the “fair use” exception to copyright law, it is permissible to use limited portions of a copyrighted work for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research without permission in a face-to-face classroom setting.4 When determining whether a use is permitted as a fair use, a balancing test is applied using four factors:

  1. the purpose of the use;
  2. the nature of the work used;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used; and
  4. the effect of the use on the market for the original.4

The U.S. Copyright office provides additional detail regarding each of these factors.5

Classroom Exception

Under the “classroom” exception to copyright protection, instructors are permitted to display entire copyrighted works (e.g., sound or video recordings, slides, live performances and readings) during the course of a face-to-face classroom session or similar place devoted to instruction (e.g., a studio) at a nonprofit educational institution.6

The Classroom Use exception applies only to performances and displays; making and distributing copies is not covered by the classroom exception. In those instances, a fair use assessment should be done.


Under the Technology Education and Copyright Harmonization or “TEACH” Act, accredited, nonprofit educational institutions can use copyrighted materials for instructional activities for online/distance education programs without the owner’s permission.7 When possible, instructors should link to materials that are legally available on the Internet, before creating digital copies. The TEACH Act permits the conversion of print works into digital formats only where there is no available digital version, with conversion limited to that portion of the work authorized to be performed or displayed. The TEACH Act is separate from and does not alter the fair use exception.

To comply with the TEACH Act:8

  • The institution must be an accredited, non-profit educational institution.
  • The material must be provided at the direction of or under the supervision of an instructor.
  • The use must be course-specific and part of mediated instructional activities.9
  • The material must be an integral part of the course curriculum.
  • The amount of material must be comparable to that used in a live classroom session.
  • The use must be limited to a specific number of students enrolled in a specific class; materials cannot be made available on the open web (e.g., use of password-protected course pages in a system like Blackboard to limit access).
  • Materials must be accompanied by a notice of copyright advising students that materials must be used in accordance with copyright law and the institution's copyright policies. Students may not retain a permanent copy of the material or disseminate it.
  • The use must be for either ‘live’ or asynchronous class sessions.

If the TEACH Act does not apply to an intended use, a fair use assessment should be done. If neither exception applies to an intended use, permission to use the copyrighted material should be requested from the copyright holder.


  1. 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. (the “Copyright Act”)
  2. Copyright in General - U.S. Copyright Office
  3. 17 U.S.C. § 106
  4. 17 U.S.C. § 107
  5. Fair Use - U.S. Copyright Office
  6. 17 U.S.C. § 110 (1)
  7. 17 U.S.C. § 110 (2)
  8. For the full list of requirements, refer to the TEACH Act
  9. See 17 U.S.C. § 110 (11), defining the term &ldquot;mediated instructional activities&rdquot; with respect to the performance or display of a work by digital transmission as referring to activities that use such work as an integral part of the class experience, controlled by or under the actual supervision of the instructor and analogous to the type of performance or display that would take place in a live classroom setting.

Specific questions about usage of copyrighted material should be directed to University counsel, in the President’s Office.