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Copyright: Copyright & Teaching Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Effective teaching almost always requires incorporating materials created by other people. For that reason, there are a number of provisions of the law, called exceptions, that permit use of copyrighted materials for educational purposes without requesting permission from the copyright holder and/or paying fees. However, interpreting these laws for your particular needs is not always straightforward. Further complicating things, some copyrighted materials have licenses that may be more or less restrictive.

The purpose of this page is to empower you to conduct a "good-faith analysis" to determine whether your may use copyrighted materials in your teaching. A "good-faith analysis" is defined by the Purdue University Copyright Office as a process of understanding the exception you are selecting, articulating it, and reasonably applying it to your specific situation.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and the information presented here is not legal advice. For legal assistance, contact OSU Office of Legal Counsel:


Sharing materials with students

Copyright issues with course materials usually arise because you're making copies, which is one of the exclusive rights of copyright holders. Copying portions of works to share with students may be fair use, and at times (especially in unusual circumstances, or with works that aren’t otherwise commercially available) it may even be fair use to make lengthier copies.

If you need to conduct your own fair use analysis, the University of Minnesota has created an excellent Thinking Through Fair Use tool you can use to help you make this decision. See also the Brigham Young University's Fair Use Evaluation Log.

Generally speaking, to the extent the content you wish to share is a "favored" fair use purpose (e.g. criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research), does not involve the entire work or a substantial portion of it, is directly tied to meeting the course objectives, is available only to students enrolled in the course, is not a "consumable" (e.g. workbook, problem set), and is not a direct market substitute, your use may be considered "fair."  Note that this is not an exhaustive list.

Where an instructor doesn’t feel comfortable relying on fair use, your liaison librarian may be able to suggest alternative content that is already online through library subscriptions, or publicly available content. Kathy Essmiller, the OSU Open Educational Resources Librarian, has created a guide to help you find free and open educational content, available at

How can I determine how much of a book or journal I am permitted to share?

There is no legally specified "brightline" regarding the amount of a book or journal you are permitted to share with students.

The 1976 Guidelines for Classroom Copying are a starting point, but are not legally binding. In terms of prose works (such as books and articles), they state it may be permissible to make multiple copies of "a complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words" or an excerpt "of not more than 1,000 words or 10% of the work, which-ever is less, but in any event a minimum of 500 words" so long as some additional stipulations are met. These guidelines are a floor for fair use, not a ceiling. Uses exceeding these guidelines could still be considered a fair use. At the same time, uses not reaching these guidelines could be an infringement; it depends on other factors. Furthermore, if you have downloaded the content from a database or ebook vendor, it may be subject to additional license terms.

Whether the course is online or face to face, you are responsible for conducting a fair use analysis for all portions of a book or journal you share with students. Please see our page on fair use, the Thinking Through Fair Use tool, the Brigham Young University's Fair Use Evaluation Log, or contact us for assistance with this.

How can I best share physical materials (e.g. books, DVDs) with students?

To share a physical book, DVD, or CD for students to check-out in person, you may place it on course reserves. We offer 2-hour, 1-day, 3-day, or 7-day checkout of these materials. Visit our Textbooks and Reserves page for more information, including the Reserve Material Request form. The library does not place photocopies on course reserve.

Search DVDs available from the OSU Libraries. Each computer station in the Edmon Low Library is equipped with a DVD player. Additionally, the Edmon Low Creative Studios loans specialty viewing equipment, such as multi-region and VHS players.

Please note: given the uncertainties surrounding Covid-19, it is possible that we may need to restrict access, such as implementing longer quarantine periods between uses, to course reserves.

How can I get a digital copy of print book chapters or journal articles to post to Canvas?

If you do not have a digital copy of your print book or journal article, you may use the publicly available scanners on the first or fifth floor of the library.

If the print item you need is in the library holdings, you may place a document delivery request for the library to scan and provide an electronic copy. All requests are subject to copyright restrictions.

How can I find permalinks to articles and ebooks?

The easiest way to ensure you and your students can get access to all library resources is to log-in first. Share the Anywhere Library Access link at for a direct login.

Often if you access a journal article or ebook via the library databases, the URL will automatically be configured to prompt students to log-in if they are off campus. Look for in the URL. If the URL does not contain this information, look for a "permalink" or "cite" option within the database. If you need help linking to Libraries subscription resources, please reach out to your liaison librarian.

Not all URLs are specially configured to prompt a login for OSU students. If the URL does not include configuration information, students accessing the material from off campus may hit a paywall. The next best option is to link to the item from the OSU Library Search on the library website. Search for the article, click on it in the results, and then click the Permalink button. By sharing that link, students will be prompted to login with their OKEY credentials to gain access to the article. Sometimes these links do not take you directly to the article, so test this beforehand. NOTE: Before linking to Harvard Business content, ask Victor Baeza for assistance.

Screenshot of OSU library catalog with Permalink option highlighted

How can I best share an electronic journal article from the library databases in Canvas?

To share an electronic journal article from the library databases, your best option is to link to it. Linking to subscription content is almost always permitted. Much of our subscription content will have "permalink" options, which should work even for off-campus users (see above "How can I find permalinks to articles and ebooks?"). If you need help linking to Libraries subscription resources, please reach out to your liaison librarian.

If the article you wish to share is licensed with a Creative Commons license, you may download the article and provide it directly to students in Canvas, as that is explicitly permitted by the terms of these licenses.

How can I best share e-books in the library collection with students?

It is important to recognize that most of the ebooks in our collection are governed by licenses that restrict the number of simultaneous users, the time limits on how long an ebook can be checked out, the amount of the book that may be downloaded by a single user, and whether downloads may be shared. In most cases, only between 1-3 people can access the book at a single time, the checkout limit is approximately one month, they may or may not have the ability to download chapters, and they may have permission only to use the downloads for personal study.

However, these restrictions can usually be modified. Ebook titles can often be upgraded to higher access models. The library will receive alerts when access limits are reached, and may upgrade a title (if possible) to accommodate the increased usage. For entire ebooks assigned as part of a course, the library may purchase an "unlimited user" license, in which case you may share the link with students and they will not be locked out if other users are accessing it. Checkout periods may also be increased on select titles upon request.

If you have any questions about the license for a specific book, please contact us, especially if you intend to assign the book to a large number of students who are likely to need it at the same time.

Note that it may be possible to download PDFs of chapters for personal use, but it is possible that the license you agree to when downloading the chapter does not permit you to share the PDF downloads on Canvas. In other words, even if you determine it to be within fair use to post a portion of the book, it may be a violation of the license terms. Check with a librarian if you have questions on whether it is permissible to post chapters of e-books to Canvas.

Finally, if the book you wish to share is licensed with a Creative Commons license, you may download it and provide it directly to students in Canvas, as that is explicitly permitted by the terms.

How can I best share a streaming film from the library databases with students?

The OSU Library subscribes to several academic streaming video collections, including the following. The majority of these do not include limits on simultaneous users, and you may share a permalink directly with students.

  • Streaming (OSU Libraries Search)  Filter on the left or at the top of the page type additional words in the advanced search
  • Alexander Street Press  Streaming Sony Picture Classics, World Cinema, Filmakers Library, LGBT Studies & Black Studies, New World Cinema, Silent Film Online, and educational videos of all kinds
  • Kanopy  Browse streaming video selected for courses.
  • AVON Academic Video Online (trial) 
  • is a collection of streaming videos demonstrating techniques and approaches in counseling and psychotherapy. They are designed as educational resources for students as well as continuing education for mental health practitioners.

Netflix also provides access to original documentaries available for educational use (requires Netflix account). See Netflix Documentaries.




Some of these responses are adapted from University of Minnesota's Sharing Course Materials with Students and Rapidly shifting your course from in-person to online, licensed under CC BY 3.0)