Examples and Cases

Here you will find typical situations where a teacher needs to make a decision about providing copies of copyrighted material. Each case illustrates the considerations in making that decision. For the general principles in providing access to course readings and other materials, please refer to the Guidelines for Using Copyrighted Materials on Course Web sites.
Please let us know if you have questions or examples not covered here.

  1. Course packs
  2. Use of images in a Canvas site
  3. Building a website for a program (FSPs, co-curricular groups etc.)
  4. Distributing popular materials in a scholarly context
  5. Streaming video in different contexts
  6. WordPress blog assignments for a course
  7. Multi-institutional scholarly collaboration on a Dartmouth-hosted site
  8. Reusing a copyrighted work for artistic purposes

Example 1: Course packs

A faculty member in Engineering distributes a prepared, in-house copied and bound collection of readings from a wide variety of sources (journal articles, book chapters). The course pack includes Harvard Business Review (HBR) articles and a journal article from Risk Analysis. The students do not pay for the course pack. Does Fair Use protect the use and distribution of this course material?

Copyright court cases have NOT favored the distribution of course packs without the payment of permissions, and such distribution is not considered a fair use. In addition, HBR articles are subject to highly restrictive terms of use (even in an academic context) and may not be freely copied and distributed. Check with a subject specialist librarian about license restrictions on Dartmouth subscribed content such as this. To avoid copyright infringement, the professor should consider doing the following:

  • Linking to publisher content. Although providing access to a PDF or distributing a print copy of an article may seem convenient, convenience does not factor into a fair use determination. The professor may create a course website with links to all the materials. Linking is an acceptable form of distribution and works well for Dartmouth students as Dartmouth has a subscription to the Risk Analysis journal. See also Using Full Text, Visual & Audio Resources. However, you CANNOT even link to HBR materials; see restrictions on the resource itself.
  • Posting the author’s version of a journal article MAY be possible based on the rights the author retained. This may apply only to the final peer reviewed version, NOT to the published version. 
  • Using electronic course reserves for book chapters. The Library can place a single chapter on electronic course reserve which can then be accessed via a link from the course site.

Example 2.  Use of images in a Canvas site 

A professor teaching a photography course posts copyrighted images from various photographers, historical images, and diagrams on optics that he has not created himself in his Canvas site. Much of this material is online, hosted on various websites, blogs,  etc, and he links to these materials. These are part of his curriculum and used for teaching, and linking to the materials is fine. He may be able to post some of the materials within the enrollment controlled space of the Canvas site, as long as each item is needed in conjunction with the other items to forward the course goals. However, if reproducing the image, it is best to use a lower resolution image so that students cannot download and print or distribute a high resolution version. The students should be made fully aware of the copyright status of the material. 

Example 3: Building a website for a program (FSPs, co-curricular groups etc.)

The faculty advisor to a cross-cultural service program with a curricular component wishes to post images of maps, flags, and cultural icons on the program blog as part of the presentation. Through his Internet searches, he finds many great images, but does not know if he can use them. These materials are typically available from tourism offices or government sites, and the creators intend that they be used. Does Fair Use protect the use of possibly copyrighted images found on the Internet for a college-sponsored program’s website? 

To apply Fair Use, the faculty advisor would need to determine the nature of the materials and the purpose of using the selected images. As noted above, they are intended to widen awareness of the country in many cases. Are they important for the presentation of the information? As this involves a college-sponsored service program which is part of teaching, Fair Use is applicable here. The faculty advisor should select only those images that forward his goals for communication about the program, and it is best to provide low resolution versions of the images.  

Example 4. Distributing popular materials in a scholarly context.

A Center on campus sponsors a monthly reading group for faculty and visiting researchers. For the spring term, the faculty leader assigns Capital in the Twenty-First Century via a link to an external site,and each month the center administrator, as advised by the faculty leader, scans a chapter of the book and sends the PDFs, along with links to scholarly articles, to participants in advance of meetings. 

Scanning and distributing PDFs of book chapters from a book that is intended for the popular market, for the purposes of use by a reading group, not a closed enrollment class, does not meet the Fair Use criteria.  While one could make a Fair Use argument for scholarly sharing, this depends on how much of the book is delivered via PDF. If a single chapter from a book is distributed one time only and it is being used in conjunction with other secondary materials to make the points intended by the teacher, this could qualify as being sufficiently transformative, and therefore within the bounds of Fair Use. However, if the entire Capital in the Twenty-First Century is distributed via PDF in monthly installments, this would be considered to be causing market harm and should be avoided. The faculty leader of the group will need to determine the amount distributed in this way and if that amount if appropriate to the teaching use.

Example 5. Streaming video in different contexts

The professor of an upper-level seminar requests that the course reserve service stream a documentary that will complement the campus visit of a prominent activist. In addition, the professor wants to provide access to the documentary to members of a scholarly working group who are planning the activist’s visit (and who participate in the WGST seminar). Streaming a legally obtained film for use by a controlled and known number of people in an academic endeavor is covered under copyright law. The professor can enroll participants in her Canvas site, and then link to the library “all streaming media” site for the documentary. 

Example 6. WordPress blog assignments for a course  

A professor is assigning students a multimedia project in which they create WordPress sites/blogs in teams. Students will find images via the Internet and library resources. As the topic is related to pop-culture, it is expected that some of the relevant imagery will come from the internet and other non-Dartmouth licensed sources. What advice and guidelines should the professor give the students on what they can/cannot use and how they can/cannot use it?

  • The students need to use the appropriate amount of materials they find to make the points they want to express in the blog. They of course need to cite it completely. They should look at the introductory material about Fair Use and be able to explain why they needed to use this material and how that use comes under Fair Use in copyright.
  • The instructor can recommend students find materials licensed under Creative Commons, or in the Public Domain or from a U.S. government agency.

Example 7. Multi-institutional scholarly collaboration on a Dartmouth-hosted site   

A scholarly working group consisting of Dartmouth faculty and scholars from multiple institutions are setting up a Dartmouth-hosted website for their collaborative work. Via this website, they wish to have collaborative workspace and access copyright-protected book chapters, articles, etc, available via the Dartmouth Library. To access this site, non-Dartmouth members of the group will have to become authenticated Dartmouth users for a limited period of time. There is a time limit on this project, and members of the working group will become Dartmouth-authenticated, so will have time limited access to Dartmouth subscribed content. It will be best to link to that content and only post full text when necessary, even in the controlled access environment. 

Example 8: Reusing a copyrighted work (poem in this case) for artistic purposes

In a letterpress printing workshop, a student uses a Shel Silverstein poem as a point of departure for her book project. She reproduces the entire poem in her book, but plays with typography, inserts line breaks where none existed, and produces original artwork for the pages.  She would like to submit this to a competition, and possibly print more copies to sell on Etsy.  Does Fair Use protect the production and distribution of this book?

To apply Fair Use, the student would need to determine whether her book is sufficiently transformative of the Shel Silverstein poem. The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry addresses this case in Code 4, Criticism, Comment and Illustration.  However, the nature of the distribution of the poet's work should be considered. It is possible that the copyright owner, be it the poet, publisher or estate, is very stringent about reuse or very open to such reuse. To determine the strength of a fair use case, these steps should be followed:

  • The student and the professor should decide if the new project, though inspired by the Silverstein poem, represents a significant departure from the original poem. If her approach sufficiently transforms the poem, and thus could be considered original work, she may enter the work into a contest without asking for permission. 
  • Even if the approach is a transformative fair use, that does not extend to commercially exploiting the new work without express permission. The fourth fair use factor is still very important.
  • It is best to seek help from a librarian in researching the copyright owner to determine the level of control the copyright owner wants to exert.
  • It is important to seek advice from Dartmouth's Office of the General Counsel for an analysis of the risks involved, particularly when the original artist is very high profile or the copyright owner clearly wants to exert total control. 

In summary, this may be a case of transformative reuse and remixing of source material to the extent that a new artwork is created, but a risk analysis may be necessary before making the new work public, and permission must be sought before making commercial use of the new work. As a matter of good artistic practice, the student should of course cite the source poem. 


Return to list of examples