U.S. Copyright law balances the interests of authors who have created works with the interests of users of those works. The purpose of copyright is "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts," while also serving as a form of protection provided to authors of "original works of authorship."
This balance is maintained by the provision of certain rights to authors – such as the right to reproduce, distribute, or prepare derivatives of the work – and the provision of some exceptions and limitations to those entitlements.
Fair use is the U.S. legal doctrine that permits brief excerpts of copyrighted material, under certain circumstances, to be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder. Unlike specific exceptions to the rights of copyright owners, fair use is a flexible standard. Therefore, each application of fair use must be examined on a case-by-case basis.
The copyright statute includes a specific exception for performing or displaying (but not copying) copyrighted works in face-to-face instruction. Other uses may be covered by fair use, but there are limits to how much of a work you can use and still fall under fair use. You will also need to limit access to materials to only enrolled students when sharing online (e.g. D2L Brightspace course site, password-protected website). For uses that don't fall under the specific exception or fair use, you should get permission from the copyright owner.
Fair use guidelines are flexible. Using one or two book chapters or less than 10-20% of a book can be used as a general rule of thumb in gauging the fairness of a use in an educational context. However, instructors must conduct their own fair use evaluations when making digitized copies of our print collections available to their students. Request a book chapter.
Explore copyright and what you as a University of Arizona instructor can do to ensure your activities are in alignment with the law.
The complexity of U.S. copyright law
U.S. Copyright law serves both private and public interests. The private interest is the author’s right to reap the benefits of his or her creative endeavors. The public interest is the dissemination and use of works by the public. The private interest is served by the granting of a bundle of entitlements to copyright owners.The public interest is served through the exceptions and limitations to those entitlements as described in Sections 107 to 122 of the law (Title 17 of the United States Code).