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Copyright and Fair Use

Questions about Copyright and Fair Use? Contact:

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Hedda Monaghan
Henry Whittemore Library
(508) 626-4664

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FSU Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines

The Whittemore Library at Framingham State University offers access to its collections in order to support and facilitate education, research and scholarship.  Within the parameters of that access, it is presumed that certain materials may be made available for reproduction for use in the classroom, for course reserves, or the Internet or World Wide Web.  Many such materials in the Library's collections are protected by the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 (Title 17, U.S.C., Sec. 101 et seq.).  Additionally, the use or reproduction of certain materials may be restricted by terms of gift, privacy and publicity rights, and University policy.

It is recommended that scholars and researchers desiring to copy and reproduce materials available from the Library for educational, research and scholarship purposes consult the guidelines below.  The purpose of these guidelines is to provide guidance for educators, scholars and students to reproduce copyrighted works for use in educational contexts under the fair use principles of current copyright law, including Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act. 

Reproduction or transmission of protected items beyond that allowed under fair use exemptions to the U.S. Copyright Law requires the written permission of the copyright owner. In addition to print, copyright protections also govern the use of audio, video, and images, as well as text and images on the Internet.  It is the obligation of the educator or researcher to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions when distributing copyrighted materials.  The limitations and conditions listed herein do not apply to works in the public domain, including U.S. Government works such as judicial opinions and administrative rulings, current newspaper or periodical articles, or very old works on which copyright has expired.  Also to be considered are license agreements that govern the use of some works, such as audio recordings or photographic images.

Fair Use

There is no strict definition of fair use that is universally accepted, and copyright law is constantly evolving and changing.  However, generally speaking, the more one exceeds these guidelines, there is greater risk that copyright violations will apply.   The individual who wants to use a copyrighted work must weigh several factors:

  • The purpose and character of the use:  is the copyrighted work to be used for educational or nonprofit purposes?

  • The nature of the copyrighted work:  is it published or unpublished, out of print, factual or artistic?  If a work is published and factual, it is more likely to be considered fair use than if it is not.

  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used:  does the amount used exceed reasonable proportions to the rest of the work, and would it adversely affect the author's or creator's economic benefit?

  • The effect of use on the potential market for the copyrighted work:  if the copyrighted work is to be incorporated into a project with a final end product, the more the new work differs from the original, the less likely it will be considered an infringement.

What should be avoided?

  • Making multiple copies of different works that could substitute for the purchase of books, publisher's reprints, or periodicals.
  • Copying the same works from semester to semester.
  • Copying the same material for several different courses at the same or different institutions.

When is permission required?

  • When you intend to use the materials for commercial purposes.
  • When you want to use the materials repeatedly.
  • When you want to use a work in its entirety.

How do I get permission?

  • Permission to use copyrighted materials can be ordered from a commercial enterprise. The Copyright Clearance Center ( is commonly used in higher education.  Permission can also be obtained by directly contacting the copyright holder.
  • For materials to be used outside of Framingham State University courses, you must obtain permission yourself directly from the copyright holder.

Copyright and electronic publishing

  • The same protections that exist for traditional copyrighted works exist for works that are in an electronic format, e.g. a database, CD-ROM, bulletin board, or on the Internet.
  • If copies are made from an electronic source, such as the Internet, for noncommercial educational uses, it is likely to be seen as fair use.
  • There are both non-copyrighted and copyrighted materials available on the Internet. Always assume a work is copyrighted.

Tips for the Internet

  • Always credit the source of your information
  • Find out if the author of a work (e.g., video, audio, graphic, icon) provides information on how to use his or her work. If explicit guidelines exist, follow them.
  • Whenever feasible, ask the owner of the copyright for permission. Keep a copy of the request for permission and the permission received.

Motion media: video/DVD/film

Legal possession of any of these formats does not confer the right to show them in a public setting. However, in the case of educational, nonprofit educational institutions, these media may be used if certain criteria are met:

  • Display is to a class.

  • The media is legal (not pirated) and a copyright notice is included.

Copying of videos/DVD/film

Copying of these media is strictly forbidden. The single exception is a library that wishes to replace a work that has been damaged or lost and cannot purchase it at a reasonable price.

Off-air recordings of broadcasts

Licenses may be obtained for copying broadcasts. In the absence of a formal agreement, copies may be made under the following guidelines:

  • Copied recordings may not be kept more than 45 calendar days after the recording date. At that time recordings must be erased or discarded.

  • Copies may be shown to students only within the first 10 school days of the 45-day retention period.

  • Off-air recordings may not be altered or combined with others to form anthologies.

Educational Multimedia Project Guidelines

The guidelines provide guidance for the use, without permission, of portions of lawfully acquired copyrighted works for multimedia projects produced by educators and scholars.


  • The guidelines are intended to apply to educational multimedia projects that incorporate educators' original material, such as course notes or commentary, together with various copyrighted media formats, including motion media, music, text material, and graphics illustrations.
  • The guidelines are voluntary and do not have the force of law.
  • If you follow the guidelines, it is highly likely that your use is fair use.
  • The guidelines are safe minimums.
  • The newly created work that includes copyrighted material may only be used for education-related activities. Other uses, such as selling the work commercially, require permission.

Student guidelines

  • Students may incorporate portions of copyrighted materials when producing a project for a specific course.
  • Students may perform and display their own projects and use them in their portfolio or use the project for job interviews or as supporting materials for application to graduate school.

Faculty guidelines

  • Faculty may include portions of copyrighted works when producing their own multimedia project for their teaching in support of curriculum-based instructional activities at Framingham State University.
  • Faculty may use their project for:
    • assignments for student self-study
    • for remote instruction, provided the network is secure and is designed to prevent unlawful copying
    • for conferences, presentations, or workshops
    • for their professional portfolio

When should you get permission?

  • When you intend to use the project for commercial or non-educational purposes.
  • When you intend to duplicate the project beyond the two copies allowed by the guidelines.
  • When you plan to distribute the project beyond the scope of the guidelines.

Library Reserve Policy

Materials which may be placed on Reserve without obtaining copyright permission:

  • Exams

  • Lecture notes

  • Most government publications

Portions of copyrighted materials that may be photocopied or scanned and placed on electronic reserve:

  • A chapter from a book

  • An article from a periodical or newspaper

  • A short story, essay, or short poem

  • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical or newspaper

Copyrighted materials that may not be photocopied or scanned and placed on reserve:

  • Pages from works intended to be "consumable" in course of study or teaching. These include workbooks, exercises, standardized tests, test booklets and answer sheets.

  • An entire book, whether in print or out-of-print

Length of time photocopied/scanned materials may be on reserve:

  • Photocopies of copyrighted materials may be placed on reserve one semester only without permission. If the instructor wishes to keep these materials on reserve for more than one consecutive semester, permission from the copyright holder must be requested. Once the request has been made the material can remain on reserve pursuant to the copyright holder's response. If permission is not granted than the material must be taken off reserve.

When copyright permission is needed:

  • When a journal article, book chapter or portion of a work is on reserve for consecutive semesters.

  • When multiple articles from one issue of a journal are needed for reserve during the same semester.

  • When multiple chapters from a book are needed during one semester.

Copyright Infringement and Penalties

Copyright infringement is the act of exercising, without permission or legal authority, one or more of the exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner under section 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code), including reproducing or distributing a copyrighted work.  In the filesharing context, downloading or uploading substantial parts of a copyrighted work without authority also constitutes an infringement.

Unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer sharing, may subject an individual to civil and criminal liabilities.  Penalties for violations of federal copyright laws may include payment of the actual dollar amount of damages and profits; a dollar penalty ranging from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed; attorney's fees and court costs; an injunction to stop the infringing acts; court impoundment of the illegal work; or the infringer can go to jail. Students who engage in unauthorized peer-to-peer sharing, illegal downloading or unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials using the school's information technology system are subject to Student Code of Conduct regulations and possible disciplinary penalties.

For more information, please visit the U.S. Copyright Office at, and related FAQ's at