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Copyright Information and Guidelines: Fair Use Scenarios

This guide for the Bentley University community presents information on copyright and provides guidance in evaluating the use of copyrighted material in higher education and scholarship.

Fair Use Scenarios

Scenario 1: A professor wishes to digitize and post on Blackboard a textbook her students have complained is too expensive.

Fair Use? No. Digitizing constitutes copying. Copying an entire book and distributing (even electronically on Blackboard) to students would adversely affect the market for that work, thus violating fair use.

Possible solution(s): The professor should consider selecting the most relevant portions of the textbook to digitize, as long as they do not exceed the acceptable amount under fair use. Or, identify a less-expensive but comparable textbook that would meet the original pedagogical purpose.

Scenario 2: A professor only owns one copy of a book and wishes to make copies of the book to place on physical reserve for his students to check out.
Fair Use? No. Only legally acquired books may be placed on reserve. Making copies would violate fair use since it would adversely affect the market for that work.

Possible solution(s): The professor could provide the library with legally acquired copies to place on reserve. He could also request the library purchase additional copies for its collection, thus making them available for reserves.


Scenario 3: A professor wishes to scan an article from a recent edition of a newspaper and post it on her Blackboard site.

Fair Use? Yes. This would be considered “spontaneous copying” and is permissible as long as it is for a one-time use. If the professor wishes to re-use the article in subsequent semesters, a fair use analysis would be required.


Scenario 4: A professor is interested in linking to an article from an online journal from his Blackboard site for his students to read.

Fair Use? It depends. As long as the article appears in a journal to which the library has licensed access, then this would be considered fair use.

Scenario 5: A professor has identified a chapter from a book that she wishes to digitize and post on her Blackboard site.

Fair Use? Yes. Posting a chapter would comply with fair use, as long as it is removed after the semester ends.

Scenario 6: A professor, after discovering that a particular book he wishes to include on his syllabus is out of print and not available for purchase, wants to scan his personal copy and post to Blackboard.

Fair Use? It depends. While being out of print eliminates the risk of market effect, the rightsholder will most likely still have a rightful claim to the copyright.

Possible solution(s): It is recommended that the professor contact the rightsholder to inquire about the current state of the copyright. He could also consider selecting a portion of the content to digitize and post.


Scenario 7: A professor, who was just notified that the textbooks ordered for her course have not yet arrived at the bookstore, wants to scan and post the first few chapters on her Blackboard site for her students to read until the books arrive.

Fair Use? Yes. Such use is considered “spontaneous copying” and falls within fair use as long as it is a temporary arrangement. The files must be removed once the textbooks arrive.

Resources with Additional Scenarios

This document from The Consortium for Educational Technology for University Systems (CETUS) a partnership of California State University, the State University of New York and the City University of New York contains several illustrative fair use scenarios.
Several example scenarios from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries.
Several teaching scenarios are presented illustrating the application of fair use.