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Copyright at CSUEB: Law Cases / Scenarios

Law Cases

Numerous law cases have tested copyright law and its amendments.  These links take you to summaries of some examples.



Here are a few examples to illustrate typical issues surrounding printed materials, video recordings, multimedia projects, and distance education.  These scenarios are adapted from CSULB, with permission.


How can I share an article or book with others?

  • The safest way to do this is to refer CSUEB students or faculty to a "persistent URL" for that article.  For students, that's usually through BlackBoard.  Thanks to Gr Keer in the library, here are instructions to do that:
  • At this point, articles in non-EBSCO databases may or may not have persistent URLs.  If they do, you can embed them in BlackBoard.  If not, you can provide the bibliographic information and refer the student or faculty member to the library for help and access. In extreme circumstances, where none of these options work, you may follow these steps, but only in extreme cases:
    • Scan the material only if the purpose is educational and relevant to the course.
    • Scan as little as possible.  Copy only 10% or a single chapter of a book or a single article from a journal article.
    • Make sure there is a copyright cover sheet at the front of the document.  This should read


The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproduction of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research. If electronic transmission of reserve materials is used for purposes in excess of what constitutes “fair use”, that user may be liable for copyright infringement. These materials are made available for the educational purposes of students enrolled at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. No further reproduction, transmission, or electronic distribution of this material is permitted.

    • Upload the document to Blackboard to ensure access is restricted to enrolled students
    • Remove the scanned document at the end of the course
  • If you want to refer a non-CSUEB person to an article or ebook, provide the bibliographic information and refer them to their library.  
  • Print books may be borrowed either through LINK+ or Interlibrary Loan if LINK+ does not have an available copy.
  • For print articles from journals on our library shelves, provide the bibliographic information and refer the student or faculty member to the journal on the shelves. S/he will be able to read the item in the library or use a copy machine to make a copy for him/herself.
  • NOTE:  Scanning a print article and sending it electronically to others is considered "making multiple copies" and is not allowed under fair use.  Libraries provide e-copies through Interlibrary Loan due to a special clause in the copyright law of 1976.
  • NOTE 2:  In certain cases of "spontaneity," a faculty member may distribute multiple copies of an article in class because s/he has "discovered" a recent item that will assist in a particular lesson. Repeated use of a copyrighted work from term-to-term, however, requires more consideration. The more often the use is repeated, as well as the size of the class, may weigh against fair use.

What about online use of copyrighted materials?  

  • If access is open to the public, the use is probably not fair use. The faculty member cannot claim educational purpose if an article is available to anyone. Also, such open access would violate the copyright holder's right of public distribution. If access to the web page is restricted, it is more likely to be fair use, but even then, there may be questions.

Course Readers and Textbooks

A faculty member wants to create a course reader for distribution to class members.

  • Faculty needs permission to reproduce copyrighted materials for a course reader.  At CSUEB, faculty can get help in creating course readers through the university bookstore, although faculty should check library holdings first, to minimize the size and cost of the reader, and refer students to a persistent URL to access library-available items (see above).  Because of contractual obligations, faculty should not work through off-campus copy stores.  The campus bookstore and duplicating services will assist in creating course readers.

A faculty member wishes to defray the cost of an expensive textbook by copying and distributing the book in class.

  • This is a violation of fair use because of the amount of material copied and the effect on the market.  Faculty should place a copy on reserve, require students to purchase the book, or seek a cheaper alternative (see the Affordable Learning Solutions guide).  Further, the library welcomes "instructor copies" for the reserve collection (see the library reserve page).  

A faculty member copies a Shakespearian play from a copyrighted anthology.

  • This is a fair use.  The play is in the public domain and not subject to copyright protection; however, additional material (notes, comments, etc.) provided by an editor is under copyright and not subject to the same availability.

Works for Research

A faculty member desires to edit and publish a collection of unpublished letters in the library archives.

  • This may or may not be fair use.  Are the letters still under copyright protection? Are the letters subject to an agreement between the library and the donor? Can the author or authors of the letters be located? Does the library agree to this publication? This requires a detailed legal and factual analysis, calling for consultation with the institution's office of legal affairs.  Keep in mind that physical letters mailed from person A to person B are owned by person B.  Emails sent from person A to person B continue to be owned by person A.

A faculty member wants to copy an article from a copyrighted periodical for later use.

  • This is fair use, as long as the faculty member uses the article for personal files and reference and, if used in a research paper, is cited appropriately.

What about out of print materials? 

  • Fair use depends on several factors. If the purpose is educational and the faculty member plans to use the book for research purposes only, it may be fair use. Copying an entire book, however, normally exceeds the fair use factor of "amount," but, since the book is out of print, more copying might be acceptable. The other question is whether such copying will impact the market?  Repeated requests to the publisher for permission to copy a book might prompt the publisher to re-issue the work.  Any attempt to by-pass that process would then violate the factor of "effect on the market."


When is showing videos OK and when is it not?

  • A faculty member can show a video for classroom instruction, when no admission fee is charged. Tuition and course fees are not considered admission fees.
  • A faculty member cannot copy a video for a colleague to show in class.  S/he may lend a personal copy for this purpose, but not copy it.
  • NOTE:  Faculty should remember that the library now provides almost all its videos through streaming video.  For more information about streaming video, please see Streaming Video @ Your Library.

Classroom Presentations

What material can be used by students or faculty in presentations?

A teacher or student gives a presentation that displays photographs. Permission was not obtained to use the photographs.

  • A faculty member of student can make a classroom presentation that includes copyrighted material, such as photographs, for instructional purposes within the amount specified by classroom guidelines. Faculty and students may perform and display their own educational projects or presentations for instruction.
  • If the presentation is broadcast for for remote instruction/distance learning, this is covered by the TEACH Act, even if enrolled students view the instruction in home or office and view the presentation for purposes of criticism, comment, teaching or instruction, scholarship, or research.
  • Videotaping such a presentation is permitted for educational purposes such as student review or instruction.
  • Any re-broadcast is fair use if that use is only for instruction.
  • The faculty member or student may make changes to the attributes of photographs and other elements in a presentation if the use is for education, comment, criticism, or parody; however, the presenter must inform the audience that changes were made to the copyrighted work.
  • NOTE:  To avoid potential issues, particularly those involving photographs and their attributes, it is helpful to seek images where creators use creative commons licenses that permit such uses.


Under what conditions can music be used?

  • Background music can be incorporated into a presentation, if instruction is occurring.
  • The presentation, including the music, can be used in distance learning for instructional purposes.
  • The presentation can be video- and audio-taped if the purpose of its re-use is instructional, including review.
  • As for re-broadcasting, it may or may not be fair use.  The purpose must be instructional and no admission can be charged.
  • A faculty members teaches a music course and creates a presentation that includes the works of multiple contemporary artists.  S/he presents this to a new class every term.  This is fair use as long as the amount of the work is limited and the purpose is instruction.
  • Any inclusion of these materials through the Internet must be restricted through login and password, e.g., through BlackBoard.

Distance Education

How does teaching long distance over the Internet affect the use of copyrighted materials?

  • A course with copyrighted text, video, audio, and images relevant to the class may be delivered to students over the Internet as long as the students are enrolled and must login with a password to view the course.  Portions of the course may also be recorded if the purpose is educational and access is restricted to enrolled students.
  • If students from another institution enroll in the course., e.g., through Cal State Online, their use is also considered acceptable if their access is protected by login and password.
  • Students may also access the course from home or office or other non-traditional classroom settings.
  • If an instructor requires that an assignment be created by students and the resulting product includes copyright work, that assignment must also remain under conditions of restricted access.  The student cannot, during the course or subsequently, mount that product on the open web without seeking and obtaining copyright permission for all copyright materials included in the assignment.
  • Use of all copyrighted materials in the course must be for educational purposes and restricted to enrolled students.

Off-Air Taping

What happens when a faculty member records a segment from a television program?

  • The segment can be shown in class, physical or online, for up to ten days after taping, after which the tape should be erased.  A back-up can even be created in case of technical difficulties, but that back-up must also be erased after ten days.  If there is need to keep the recordings for student review through the term, that could be considered fair use, but such recordings must be erased at the end of term.
  • All use must be educational and restricted to enrolled students. 
  • If the faculty member intends to use the segment for research purposes, the off-air taping can be retained for forty-five days before it must be erased.