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Copyright: For the Classroom

Detailed guidelines for authors, instructors, and students.

Fair Use

Many educational uses of copyright-protected materials are covered by fair use. There are no definite rules about when fair use overrides copyright laws. Each claim for fair use should be considered individually based on these four factors:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

These resource can help you think through if fair use applies to your particularly case:

  • Know Your Copyrights
  • Fair Use and Course Management Systems: Common Scenarios

Electronic Materials

  • Materials used for electronic reserve (such as course packs, supplemental reading materials, etc.) may include short items, such as, an article from a journal, a chapter from a book or conference proceedings, etc.
  • No more than 10% of any book may be placed on electronic reserve.
  • Instructors using any item more than two consecutive semesters are responsible for obtaining copyright permission from the publisher (or owner of material).
  • Permission from the copyright holder is required if the item is to be reused in a subsequent academic term for the same course offered by the same instructor.
  • Material may be retained in electronic form while permission is being sought or until the next academic term in which the material might be used, but in no event for more than three calendar years, including the year in which the materials are last used.
  • Short-term access to materials included on electronic reserve in previous academic terms may be provided to students who have not completed the course.
  • Copies of copyrighted works, regardless of their format, should include proper attribution and copyright notices. 
  • It is preferable to link to materials already legally available at another site (for journal articles access is usually through library subscriptions) rather than scanning or making a digital copy.  See instructions below for setting up stable URLs or send your request to the Library and we will do it for you!

Instructions for creating durable links to electronic materials

URLs that show in the address bar of your browser are not necessarily permanent links (a.k.a. durable URLs). Most vendors use dynamically-generated links via scripts that run within a search session, so that the link you see will change each time you run a search. Most databases provide some sort of permalink capability, although it is not always readily apparent how to obtain a permalink. Often you can use the email functionality to obtain a permalink. The most common standard for permalinks is "DOI". Even if a vendor does not provide a utility for creating a permalink, it is preferable to use the DOI number when creating the permalink.  Paste the DOI number to the end of the prefix

Optional: If you include the proxy prefix ( )  the link should work off-campus as well.

Paste the actual DOI at the end of the prefix.



If there is no DOI, just use the proxy prefix paste the URL of the PDF or HTML at the end of the prefix.


Printed Materials

Fair use may cover photocopying or digitizing materials for yourself and your students in the context of in-person or distance instruction.


The U.S. Copyright Office gives some additional guidance about photocopying copyrighted materials in the “Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians” Circular 21. The guidelines allow you as a faculty member or instructor in a not-for-profit educational institution to make a single copy of a book chapter, journal, or newspaper article, short essay, story or poem, or a chart, graph, diagram, drawing or picture from a work. The single copy is to be used by you for your research, use in teaching, or preparation for teaching a class. If you need to make multiple copies for your class, consider the following guidelines:

  • Brevity: a short work or section of a work
  • Spontaneity: the copying is requested by the individual teacher and the decision to use the work is so close to the effective use in teaching that there is no time to seek permission.
  • Cumulative effect:
    • (1) the copying is only for one course in the school;
    • (2) not more than one short work or excerpts can be used from the same author and no more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume PER TERM;
    • (3) no more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one class during one term;
    • (4) newspaper articles and news sections of journals are exempted from the last two requirements.
  • A copyright notice appears on the copy so that the students realize the work is protected under copyright law.
  • The copying should not replace a textbook, anthology, or purchase of books, reprints or journals.
  • Consumable works, such as workbooks, exercises, and study guides, may not be reproduced.
  • Copying of the same item by the same teacher should probably not be repeated over several years, though this is NOT stipulated by the copyright law.
  • If you ask your students to pay for copies, the fee cannot be higher than the actual cost of copying the materials.


The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002 provides additional rights to address the need to use copyrighted materials in distance education courses. This act allows instructors to digitally share materials that would reasonably be shared in a normal class setting.

It also allows analog versions (paper, film, and video) to be converted to digital formats IF:

  • A digital version is not available for purchase or lease
  • The available digital version has technological measures that protect it from being used under the provisions of the TEACH Act.

For shared materials, the follow criteria must be met:

  • The use of materials has to be under the direct supervision of the teacher.
  • It has to be a part of the class session and not something to be viewed before or after the class session; it must be part of a mediated instructional activity.
  • The material must be directly related to and of importance to the teaching of the content.
  • Transmission of the materials must be directly sent to and limited to the students in the class.
  • Technological measures must be taken to ensure the material is not accessible beyond the class session and cannot be further disseminated.
  • There is no tampering with the copyright holder's technological measures for preventing retention and redistribution.

The following resources can help you better understand the TEACH Act and your rights to reproduce copyrighted materials as an instructor:

  • Circular 21: Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians
  • TEACH Act Flow Chart


Most of these resources are “free to use” for educational purposes, but always check specific limitations of each resource. More resources are on the Library's Medical Images guide.

  • NIH Image Gallery - The NIH sponsors a centralized image service for the dissemination of primarily scientific, biomedical, and disease related imagery. Photos of NIH leadership, labs, buildings, and major historical events are also available. Images posted to the NIH Image Gallery are considered free-to-use with credit.
  • National Institute General Medical Sciences - This is a searchable collection of scientific photos, illustrations and videos. The Images and videos in this gallery are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial ShareAlike 3.0. This license lets you remix, tweak, and build upon this work non-commercially, as long as you credit and license your new creations under identical terms.
  • PARASITE IMAGE LIBRARY - Most of the images are public domain. Permission required for the use of copyrighted materials: life cycle images of Blastocystis and Pnemocystis, and electron micrograph images of Gnathostoma.
  • NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE VISUALS ONLINE - Public domain. If an image is used, credit should be given to listed source and/or author.
  • ATLAS OF OPHTHAMOLOGY - Pictures can be reproduced with permission of the editor.
  • ECG LIBRARY - Images may be used for teaching or personal study.
  • WIKIMEDIA COMMONS—MEDICINE - Images are contributed by individual users and therefore fall under a range of licensures. Most images are freely usable with certain restrictions (e.g. proper attribution).

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