Skip to Main Content

Copyright - Classroom and Program Use

This guide will help you navigate U.S. copyright law in your scholarly activities.

Classroom and Program Use

  1. What are the "Guidelines for Classroom Copying"?
  2. Can the library make copies of copyrighted work for my students for me?
  3. What is the best or easiest way to use materials for teaching?
  4. How does all of this apply to continuing education, in-service training and patient education?
  5. What copyrighted works can I use for PCOM programs?
  6. What about non-PCOM CME programs?
  7. How do I use copyrighted material in distance education?
  8. Can I show videos in a class?
  9. What is a notice of copyright?

1. What are the "Guidelines for Classroom Copying"?

The "Guidelines for Classroom Copying" are a set of guidelines outlined during the creation of the 1976 Copyright Act to help faculty determine fair use of books and journal articles in the classroom. The guidelines are not law, but a suggestion of the minimum (not only) standards of fair use.

According to the guidelines, you as a faculty member or instructor can create multiple copies for use by the class if the use meets certain criteria:​

  • Brevity - a short work or a short portion of the work is used.
  • Spontaneity - there is not enough time between deciding to use the work and using it to ask for permission.
  • Cumulative Effect - (1) the copying is only for one course in the school; (2) no 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.
  • 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.
  • If you ask your students to pay for copies, the fee cannot be higher than the actual cost of copying the materials.

Best Practices

  • Share links to online library resources or place books on reserve instead of copying them.
  • Use a variety of sources instead of copying multiple chapters from one book or multiple articles from the same journal.
  • Select a textbook for the course and supplement it with selected readings.
  • Consider paying permission fees for creating a "course pack" of your readings that you can distribute electronically and use from term to term.

2. Can the library make copies of copyrighted work for my students for me?

No. Under copyright law, libraries may make only one copy for individual use when requested by a patron. You as an instructor may make copies of an article for all students, but consider if your use falls outside the Guidelines for Classroom Copying.

3. What is the best or easiest way to use materials for teaching?

Providing links to online materials available through our library is the easiest and safest path through copyright issues. The licenses for e-journals usually include the right for students to repeatedly access these materials online and make personal copies. AND you can repeatedly use the online articles from semester to semester.

Best Practices

  • Choose articles available from the Library's electronic journal subscriptions.
  • Set up links from password-protected Blackboard sites to the Library's subscription resources by creating Library OneSearch+ Reading Lists.
  • Send the persistent links to the articles from the electronic subscriptions to your students via email.

4. How does all of this apply to continuing education, in-service training, and patient education?

The Guidelines for Classroom Copying and the copyright law do not directly measure fair use rights for CE courses, staff training, or patient education held by institutions other than non-profit educational institutions. The general rule of thumb for using copyrighted materials outside of the classroom is to a) determine whether the event itself generates profit, and b) consider whether the fair use criteria fit your event.

Here are some examples that may provide you more guidance:

  • If you take an entire journal article and give it to a physician assistant in-service class of 20 students, it probably would not be a problem. However, if you were to teach the class 20 times to about 600 physician assistants and use the same article, that probably would not constitute fair use.
  • The same would apply for patient education. The use of one article, for one reasonably-sized patient class, would probably be fair use. However, giving every patient the same article over several weeks, months or a year, would violate fair use.
  • It would be the same scenario for continuing education - one class is probably fair use, but repeatedly using the same article would not be fair use. You might also be able to justify a one-time use for a large conference, but not a second or a repeated use.
  • If you create a handout using mostly tables and illustrations from one book or journal, that would not be fair use.
  • When putting together a presentation, it is probably not fair use if you use a number of graphs and figures from only one or two articles.

Best Practices

  • Check to see if the materials are available in the Library (check our catalog or E-journal finder to determine availability). If they are, send people there to use them. Always check with the Library before providing links to electronic resources to external participants, since license and contract terms may prohibit sharing the resources outside the institution.
  • For internal CE and in-service training programs, send out the link or post the link to the item on an intranet or private Web page.
  • For patient handouts, check to see if the Library or PCOM Health Care Centers subscribes to a service that allows copying for patients.
  • Use an article, chapter, or other work, only once per training session or class, and make sure the size of the class is within reason.
  • Seek permission from the copyright owner (author or publisher) to see if they will allow free use, especially for in-service programs or patient education.
  • Create your own handouts; restate the content and facts in articles and chapters in your own words, and give credit (attribution) to the original authors of the materials.
  • Use only one or two figures, illustrations, or images from the same work in presentations and handouts.

5. What copyrighted works can I use for PCOM programs?

In most cases your work as a teacher or presenter while at PCOM is covered under fair use. Non-profit educational activities include teaching residents, students, and fellow clinicians; this also includes continuing education activities. If the CME or CE Program begins to look like a commercial event or large revenue generator, you may need to seek permission and pay a royalty fee.

6. What about non-PCOM CME programs?

It depends. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Is the program sponsored by a commercial or non-profit entity?
  • Are you being hired to provide training by a commercial group?
  • Is a large part of your income coming from speaking engagements?
  • Does the commercial entity have a blanket license that covers copyright?

When in doubt, seek permission to use materials.

7. How do I use copyrighted material in distance education?

The TEACH Act, passed in 2001, covers the use of copyrighted material in distance education courses. While fair use is still applicable in distance education, the format means that what would be fair use in a face-to-face class is not necessarily fair use online. If you want to use copyrighted materials in a distance education course, consult the law and comprehensive guides such as the one from the University System of Georgia.

Under the TEACH Act, use of copyrighted material in distance education is permitted under certain criteria:

  • The institution has a policy on the use of copyrighted material.
  • All copyrighted material used in class must include a copyright notice.
  • The material must be owned by the instructor or institution, not borrowed through interlibrary loan or other methods.
  • The material should be used during the class session, not assigned for before or after the class session.
  • The material must be directly related to and of importance to the teaching of the content.
  • The material should be directly sent to and only accessible by 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.
  • Analog material (paper, film, video) may be converted to digital formats if a digital version is not available for purchase or lease.

Best Practices

  • Carefully read over PCOM's copyright policies and the TEACH Act criteria for what types of copyrighted materials can be used and in what situations.​
  • Use only protected sites for transmitting the materials to registered students, and make sure access to materials is limited to the class time.
  • Purchase materials designed for distance learning.
  • Seek permission or pay the royalty fees for using the works if they are not covered under fair use or the TEACH Act.

8. Can I show videos in a class?

Yes. A specific exception to the copyright law allows showing videos in the course of face-to-face instruction. While best practice is to use clips or excerpts from a video, the exception extends to showing entire films.

This exception does not apply to distance education, meaning that fair use and the TEACH Act must be used for guidance. The use of video in distance education should be limited to short clips or small portions of a work, and must be accessible only to students in the class.

9. What is a notice of copyright?

The law requires that individuals be informed that materials may be copyrighted and protected under the law. If there is no visible statement of copyright on copies that you are making for others or posting on your class website, then you must add the following statement:

This work may be protected by copyright.

Best Practices

  • Check to see if there is a copyright statement already on the material you are copying or scanning.
  • If there is not a statement, add the copyright statement to at least the first page.
  • Use a rubber stamp or type the phrase on at least the first page of the article or chapter or below the image.
  • Make sure the copyright statement is legible and easy to view.

Guide Information

Last Updated: Feb 27, 2024 3:07 PM