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Hunter Library
Research Guides
Western Carolina University

Copyright Resources

Printed materials

Journal article for classroom use

Scenario: An instructor copies one article from a periodical for distribution to the class.

Fair use? Yes. Distribution of multiple copies for classroom use is fair use. However, the repeated use of a copyrighted work, from semester-to-semester, requires more scrutiny in a fair use evaluation. Repeated use, as well as a large class size, may weigh against fair use.

Posting journal article to public web page

Scenario: An instructor wants to scan an article from a copyrighted journal and add it to their public web page.

Fair use? No, if the web page can be viewed by the public, then this use is probably not a fair use. No exclusively educational purpose can be guaranteed by putting the article online, and such conduct would arguably violate the copyright holder's right of public distribution.

Posting journal article in Canvas

Scenario: An instructor teaching an online course posts the PDF of a journal article in Canvas.

Fair use? Most likely yes. If the article is available through Hunter Library's resources, it is safer to provide a link to the article. This has the added benefit of getting your students experience using library resources and allowing the library to get the most accurate usage statistics, which are incredibly important when we evaluate which resources to keep and which to cancel. Your library liaison can help you find permanent URLs for any article acquired through the library's subscriptions. If you need help finding your library liaison, click the link at the bottom of this box.

Posting book chapter in Canvas

Scenario: An instructor scans a book chapter and posts it in Canvas.

Fair use? If it is a single chapter from a book, most likely yes. If the book is available through the library, your library liaison can help you place the book on reserve or provide you with a stable URL if it is an ebook. If the library does not have a copy, your library liaison may be able to acquire one for you.

Posting an entire book in Canvas

Scenario: An instructor requires a certain book for their class but does not want to make students purchase the book, so they scan their copy and upload it to Canvas.

Fair use? No. This infringes on the copyright owner's right to market the work. The library may be able to help by purchasing an electronic copy of the text or a print copy that can be put on reserve. Please contact your library liaison if you would like to explore this possibility.


Scenario: An instructor copies excerpts of documents, including copyrighted text books and journals, from various sources. The instructor plans to distribute the materials to their class as a coursepack.

Fair use? Generally speaking, you need to obtain permission before reproducing copyrighted materials for an academic coursepack. It's the instructor's obligation to obtain clearance for materials used in class. Instructors typically delegate this task to one of the following: clearance services, university bookstores or copy shops, or Department administration.


Scenario: An instructor wishes to use a textbook they consider to be too expensive. They makes copies of the book for the class.

Fair use? No. Although the use is educational, the instructor is using the entire work, and by providing copies of the entire book to their students, they have affected the market. This conduct clearly interferes with the marketing monopoly of the copyright owner. The instructor should place a copy on reserve or provide a link to a library-purchased ebook, when available.

Scenario: An instructor decides to make three copies of a textbook and place them on reserve in the library for the class.

Fair use? No. This conduct still interferes with the marketing monopoly of the copyright owner. The instructor may place a copy of the textbook, not the copies, on reserve.

Public domain materials

Scenario: An instructor copies a Shakespearean play from a copyrighted anthology.

Fair use? Yes. The play is in the public domain and not subject to copyright protection.

Unpublished letters

Scenario: An instructor of psychology wants to edit and publish a collection of unpublished letters in the library archives.

Fair use? The answer to this scenario requires further information. Has the copyright protection expired? Are the letters subject to any agreement the library made with the donor? Can the author or authors of the letters be located? Is the library agreeable to publication? This is the type of problem that requires a detailed legal and factual analysis. One should consult the institution's office of legal counsel for advice.

Journal article for personal use

Scenario: An instructor wishes to make a copy of an article from a copyrighted periodical for their files to use later.

Fair use? Yes. This is a classic example of personal fair use so long as the instructor uses the article for their personal files and reference.

Out-of-print book

Scenario: A library has a book that is out of print and unavailable. The book is an important one in the instructor's field that they need for their research. The instructor would like to copy the book for their files.

Fair use? Yes. This is another example of personal use. If one engages in the fair use analysis, one finds that: (1) the purpose of the use is educational versus commercial; (2) the professor is using the book, a creative work, for research purposes; (3) copying the entire book would normally exceed the bounds of fair use, however, since the book is out of print and no longer available from any other source, the copying is acceptable; (4) finally, the copying will have no impact on the market for the book because the book is no longer available from any other source.

Scenario: Using the same facts as explained in the previous example, could the instructor copy the book and place the book on reserve in the library? Could the instructor scan the book into their computer and post the book online?

Fair use? If the instructor placed the book on reserve in the library, the use would be considered a fair use. However, if they posted the book online, then the use is not a fair use. Placement online allows unlimited access to the book. This would affect the copyright holder's public distribution of the book.