FAQS: Copyright and Fair Use

1. Can I copy my department's VHS tape to DVD?

As long as the VHS tape is not commercially available in a more current format you may make a back up copy for internal use. For instance, if a video was originally released in VHS and is now available in DVD you or your department need to purchase the DVD.

2. Can I distribute an article to my students that I found through another institution?

It may be fair use, however you need to consult with that institution to make sure you are working within the bounds of their licensing agreements.

3. Can I post a PDF of an article I found through the Wheelock Library to my Moodle course site?

It’s likely fair use to post a PDF article to Moodle, however it's better to link to the article from the database to better comply with our licensing agreements. Or if the article is a print copy, you can place the item on reserve for students to access.

If you have questions about linking to articles in our databases contact Maric Kramer (mkramer@wheelock.edu). Also, you can visit the Sharing Links page for more information.

4. Can I scan a chapter from a textbook or workbook and post it to Moodle for students to use?

In short, it is not fair use.
See Principle One from the ARL Code of Best Practices, where the Limitation reads, "Closer scrutiny should be applied to uses of content created and marketed primarily for use in courses such as the one at issue (e.g., a textbook, workbook, or anthology designed for the course). Use of more than a brief excerpt from such works on digital networks is unlikely to be transformative and therefore unlikely to be a fair use (p. 14)."

5. How do I know if I'm using copyrighted material fairly?

In many cases using copyrighted material for educational purposes is a strong enough position to exercise fair use. However if a deeper consideration is warranted the ARL's Code of Best Practices for Fair Use gives us two analytical questions.

Did the use "transform" the material taken from the copyrighted work by using it for a broadly beneficial purpose different from that of the original, or did it just repeat the work for the same intent and value as the original? (p. 8)

Was the material taken appropriate in kind and amount, considering the nature of the copyrighted work and of the use? (p. 8)

6. What is a licensing agreement and why should I care? I use copyrighted material fairly.

A license agreement sits on top of and takes the place of copyright and fair use law. Licenses determine who, what, when, where and how users can access material covered by the agreement.

Here are a couple of examples:
A typical Creative Commons license allows for a tremendous amount of flexibility in how anyone uses material as long as you give attribution to the work and do not profit from the use. The license applies to anyone who can access the resource.
Libraries and other institutions like Wheelock negotiate licenses with database vendors so their respective patrons can access the database's content. These licenses or contracts tend to be limited to current members of the institution, which is why you use your Wheelock credentials to log into our databases.

Search FAQs

Browse FAQs by Subject
Browse FAQs by Collection

This page maintained by: Louisa Choy
Powered by SubjectsPlus

Wheelock College Library
132 Riverway Boston, Massachusetts 02215

Earl Center for Learning and Innovation
180 Riverway Boston, Massachusetts 02215