Copyright Guidelines for Use of Materials for Course Web Sites and Course Reserves

These guidelines cover the circumstances under which, consistent with the Copyright Law, instructors may choose materials of any kind to be placed on any platform, including but not limited to Library Course Reserves, Canvas sites, WordPress or other platforms for course materials or online learning.  See also the Introduction to these Guidelines.

If you do not find an answer to your situation in these guidelines, see the sample cases for a similar example
Please let us know if you have any questions.

When you do NOT need to make a Fair Use case or seek permission:

1. Instructor-Authored Materials

Instructors may post their own authored materials, such as lecture notes, tests, exercises, problem sets, and PowerPoint presentations. Instructors should bear in mind that if material they authored has been published (e.g., in a journal), they may have transferred the copyright to the publisher. In that case, if a Fair Use case cannot be made, it may be necessary to obtain permission from the publisher to post the material.

2. Materials for Which Dartmouth College Already Holds Permission

Unless explicitly stated otherwise on the material itself, materials drawn from Dartmouth-licensed collections may be included in electronic reserves and course web sites without any further permission by linking to a persistent URL. For more information, see Using Full Text, Visual & Audio Resources for Education & Research. Legally obtained audio and video material that is required for a course may be streamed for use by those enrolled in the course. See the Paddock Library and the Jones Media Center for details on how to request audio or video material to be streamed for a course. 

3. Material in the Public Domain

The following categories of material are not protected by the Copyright Act and may therefore be made available on electronic reserves or on course web sites without the permission of the copyright owner:

  • Material that has entered the public domain because the copyright has expired. The rules for determining whether a work has entered the public domain are complicated, but are set out in chart form as prepared by Lolly Gassaway of the University of North Carolina.
  • Works of the United States Government. By statute, U.S. Government works are not protected by copyright.
  • Works with the Creative Commons license CCO (the type of Creative Commons license that copyright owners use to indicate that their work is in the public domain)

4.  Links to content on other web sites

Links to web sites. Anyone may freely reproduce the address of a web site, and provide a link with a citation. The person creating the link is not responsible for the content at that site. 

5. Material Made Available Under Creative Commons Licenses

If the material has a Creative Commons license (except CCO), it is still copyrighted but the copyright owner has specified that others can use it without permission. Each type of license specifies the type of use or reuse.

6. Open Access Materials

Materials that are made available with no pay barrier frequently may be used without permission for course reserves and on course web sites, because it has become common practice to use Creative Commons licenses for these. Check on the license before using OA materials without a Fair Use case or seeking permission.


When you DO need to make a Fair Use case or seek permission:

1. Fair Use in Copyright Law for Course Materials

"Fair use" is a copyright law doctrine that permits the reproduction or other use of a copyrighted work, without the copyright owner's permission, for purposes such as teaching, learning, scholarship, criticism, commentary, news reporting, satire, and preservation.  The Copyright Act does not specify which uses are fair, but rather establishes a flexible four-factor analysis that those using copyrighted works can apply, and which courts employ on a case-by-case basis. The four factors in section 107 of the Copyright Act are:

  • The purpose and the character of the use, including whether it is for commercial or non-profit educational purposes
  • The nature or type of the copyrighted material (i.e., periodical, film, book, fiction vs. non-fiction etc.)
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole
  • The effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copy-righted material

Key components of Fair Use analyses in recent court cases are these two questions:

  1. Does the use transform the material by either using it for a purpose different from that of the original intent or by repurposing the work for a different purpose?
  2. Are the amount and kind of the material used appropriate to the intended use?

The best tool for determining Fair Use in teaching is the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use in Academic and Research Libraries. See the introductory material and particularly Code One: “Supporting teaching and learning with access to library materials via digital technologies”

A useful tool is the Fair Use Checklist from the Columbia University Copyright Office.  The Dartmouth College Library has also developed a series of typical copyright cases as a means of illustrating the steps and considerations involved in making a fair use analysis. 

Numerical limits on copyright resulted from negotiations among representatives of publishers and the education community in 1976.  These limits are now obsolete and do not take Fair Use into account.

2. Getting Permission and Paying for Permissions

If you cannot make a Fair Use case for the materials, you need to get permission for this use. You can use the materials while you are obtaining permission, but cannot keep using materials if permission is not granted. The Library staff will help with securing permissions. The Library will cover the fees for permissions only for materials that are provided via Library eReserves, following guidelines regarding the amount of the permissions fee the Library will pay.

To provide online access, other than by means of a link, to works not listed above, copyright permission must be obtained, and the Library follows and recommends these guidelines:

  • Records of all requests sent must be kept for three years.
  • If the copyright owner (or agent) denies permission, or conditions permission on unacceptable royalty rates, the material cannot be placed online for course reserves or in a course web site; if the material has already been placed online, it shall be removed immediately. Print copies, for items that have been removed, may be made available at the Library Reserve desk depending on permission and royalty rates.
  • If the copyright owner (or agent) does not reply to the request within a reasonable time, a follow-up request shall be made, if time allows. If time does not allow, or if there is no reply to the follow-up, the materials may be made available online provided that each item is accompanied by a notice stating that the material may be protected by copyright. The following text may be used: "This material is for private study, scholarship, and research."