Skip to Main Content
NWACC Library

A Short Course in Copyright for NWACC Faculty

Need-to-Know & Best Practices

Educational Use as Fair Use

You might assume instructors are allowed to use copyrighted works for "educational use."

Educational purpose is a dimension of fair use, but there's no one right answer as to what constitutes a "fair use" of a particular copyrighted work. The answer varies from situation to situation.

Please use these examples as a suggested starting point and be sure to use the Fair Use Evaluator, if you deem it appropriate to do so.

Also, please be advised that courts are not bound by established standards or guidelines and the Copyright Act contains no such standards. Therefore, we advise that you always conduct your own fair use evaluation. 

Print Materials:
  • A single chapter from a book (5% of work for in print; 10% of work for out of print)
  • A single article from a journal issue or newspaper
  • A short story, essay, or poem from an individual work.
  • A single chart, diagram, graph, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, journal, magazine, or newspaper.
Distributing Copies
  • Copies made should not substitute the purchase of books, journals, etc.
  • Always provide a copyright notice on the first page of the copied material. At bare minimum your notice should state: "Notice: This material is subject to the copyright law of the United States."
  • Provide only one copy per student.
  • Copying the works for subsequent semesters requires copyright permission from the publisher.The library may be able to assist with copyright fees or permissions for copies used in multiple semesters through the Copyright Clearance Center. Please contact the Gwen Dobbs at for more information.
Using Materials Found on the Internet
  • Always credit the source
  • If you are using the information on your personal web page ask permission or simply link to the site
  • If you receive permission to use the material keep a copy for your records
Using Multimedia

Multimedia works are created by combining copyrighted elements such as movies, music, sounds, graphics, and text. It is recommended that you use only small portions of other people's works.

Suggested limits:
  • Movies: Up to 10% or three minutes, whichever is less
  • Text: Up to 10% or 1,000 words, whichever is less. (The limits on poetry are more restrictive.)
  • Music: Up to 10% of an individual copyrighted musical composition. 10% of a copyrighted musical composition on a sound recording. However, no more than 30 seconds may be used without gaining permission from the copyright owner and/or publisher.
  • Photos and Illustrations: Based on the below guidelines, "a photograph or illustration may be used in its entirety, but no more than five images by one artist or photographer may be incorporated into any one multimedia program. From a published collective work, not more than 10% or 15 images, whichever is less, may be used."

CONFU recommendations allow you to use small portions of multimedia works without obtaining copyright permissions. Following CONFU guidelines you may:

  • Incorporate portions of copyrighted works when creating your own multimedia projects for educational or instructional purposes.
    • Students may incorporate "portions" of copyrighted materials for a course-specific project.
    • Students may display their own projects, use them in their E-portfolios, illustrate in a job interview or use as part of their admissions application for a different college.
    • Faculty may use their projects for teaching, distance education, remote instruction, conference presentations, presentations, or those activities that can be tied to their teaching or professional development.
  • Give attribution to the original source (i.e. cite your source!) of all copyrighted material that you use.
  • Place a copyright notice on the opening screen of the multimedia program and accompanying print material that states: "Certain materials in this multimedia presentation are included under the fair use exemption of the U.S. Copyright Law and are restricted from further use."
  • Fair use exemptions of the copyrighted materials expires at the end of two years. To use the multimedia project beyond two years requires the appropriate copyright permissions. 

Use Open Access Works for More Freedom

open access logo Open Access publishing provides scholarly research literature freely online. This is one of the ways educational institutions, especially state-funded educational institutions, give back to the communities that support them. This scholarly literature often has less restrictive copyright protections for authors and barriers for users.

A good example of how helpful this can be is available in the PubMed database--the National Institutes of Health medical database, and one of the first places NWACC faculty and students may encounter open access research. In short, if research is funded by taxpayer dollars via government agency grants--such as the NIH or NSF--these agencies also require that said publications be available for free, as well is in proprietary journals.

Use Open Licensed Content for Maximum Freedom

OER logo

One way to avoid copyright confusion and pitfalls is to use content with an open license. Open Educational Resources often carry Creative Commons or other type of open license. They can be freely used as long as you follow the license conditions.