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Copyright & Fair Use: FAQ

This guide gives some resources on Copyright and Fair Use for the UTA community. This is only a guide to resources, not a legal document.

Other Scenarios

Scenarios from the University of Texas at Arlington

Copyright Questions asked of the University of Texas at Arlington Library Staff and their Answers:


Q:  Can I post 8 pages of a book chapter as class notes on WebCT? This is the only material from the book that I distribute to the class.

A:  Thank you for asking -- this almost certainly is fine.  It's always hard answering in a vacuum without examining the specific text (and it would be good to know how much of the entire chapter the 8 pages consists of), but this very limited proposed use should be within normal fair use parameters.  (Answer provided by the UT System Copyright Attorney)


Q:  I am writing a review article for an annual meeting of an organization.  In my review, I would like to use a figure from a 1985 article that appeared in a journal.  Given that the paper was published 25 years ago, and given that the journal is now defunct, do you think I would need to seek permission to use the figure?  Or would it fall under “fair use”?

A:  Contact the UT System Copyright Attorney

But, in the meantime, I copied and pasted something below that I found on their website dealing with intellectual property:

Difficulty Identifying Owner

If the author, creator or publisher is not obvious, such as may be the case for historical photographs, architectural drawings, personal papers or other archival materials, your task may be more difficult. Try the following:

Check with the source of your copy of the work for any information about who owns the copyright and how to contact the owner. For example, the library where you found the materials may own the copyright or know whom to contact for permission to use the work or excerpts from it.

Manuscripts: Check the WATCH File, a database that contains primarily the names and addresses of copyright holders or contact persons for English-language authors whose papers are housed in whole or in part in libraries in North America and the United Kingdom.

Architectural works: Getting Permission to Use Archival Materials Related to Architectural Works

Photographic images.

Plays: Obtaining Rights to Produce a Play or Musical; Obtaining Rights for Music Used in Live Performance

Check with your source for an alternative work that is either in the public domain or for which copyright ownership can be more easily determined.


Unresponsive Owner  Sometimes, even if you go through all the right steps, you may not figure out whom to ask or the owner may not respond. There truly may be no one who cares about what you do with a particular work, but the bottom line is that no amount of unsuccessful effort eliminates liability for copyright infringement. Copyright protects materials whether the owner cares about protection or not.

While it is possible that a thoroughly documented unsuccessful search for an owner would positively affect the balance of the fair use test under the fourth factor or lessen a damage award even if the court determines that there was an infringement, there are no cases addressing this issue, so it's only a theory. Because the University is likely to be liable, along with an accused individual, for the infringements of faculty, students and staff, U.T. System must advise such individuals not to use works for which required permission cannot be obtained. The University itself, however, may determine that at times there are important considerations favoring limited nonprofit educational use of materials that would counterbalance the risk of harm to someone's legal rights, knowing and accepting that it may suffer the consequences if a fair use or mitigation of damages argument might fail.

If the University does everything possible to lower the risk (that is, making and documenting a thorough search for anyone who would be harmed) and is unable to find anyone, it may be willing to assume that risk if the counterbalancing benefit is significant. Still, if it turns out that there is an owner who objects to the use and a fair use or mitigation of damages argument fails, the University will have to accept the consequences of infringement.


Q:  Can I convert Youtube videos into mp3 files then transfer those to a phone?  It is a song/video posted by a user on Youtube (not the artist) and the patron wanted this unique version of the song because it was unavailable elsewhere, such as on iTunes or other music sites.

A:  I used caution and told the patron that I didn’t believe it was legal.  It seemed sketchy at the very least. There are several Youtube file converters online and they have all these disclaimers attached, such as not for copyrighted material.


Q:  Can I scan the entire contents of a book?

A:  I told her she really couldn’t copy the entire book because of copyright restrictions, she replied “But my professor said we could just go to the Library and copy the whole book; we didn’t need to buy our own”.  I very briefly explained fair use to her and she seemed to understand. The person I really should have talked to was the instructor!

Q:  Can I place a copy of a DVD on reserves for students to check out

A:  No but you can place the original DVD on reserves for check out


Q:  Can I place 3 chapters from the same book, on E-reserves

A:  Only if the 3 chapters does not constitute more than 10% of the entire content of the book.


Q:  Can I place a copy of a thesis that a former student wrote several years ago, on print and E-reserves?

A:  Yes you may, but only if you have written permission from the student. (& they would have to provide us with a copy of the written permission)


Q:  I’ve made a PowerPoint presentation of notes for my class can we place these on e-reserves

A:  Yes, since you wrote the notes we can place your PowerPoint slides on e-reserves.


Q:  I am in hopes that you can help me understand what I can and cannot do with this type of publication. I have several editorials that I get the .pdf from the publisher. I asked the publisher if I can put it up in the UT Arlington Repository but I am still a bit unclear. Can you make any sense of this? The attachment is what I think they call a PDF offprint. If you can help me figure this out and we can do it, I have other editorials that we can put up in the Repository as well.

A:  It’s tricky because they don’t use your language.  I am not a lawyer so anything I say does not represent legal advice…  I believe it meets the criteria set by  the publisher.  Our institutional repository fits under the criteria:

Preprint version (with a few exceptions- see below *)

Accepted Author Manuscript

Published Journal Articles

Voluntary posting on open web sites operated by author or author’s institution for scholarly purposes

Yes (author may later add an appropriate bibliographic citation, indicating subsequent publication by Elsevier and journal title)

Yes, with appropriate bibliographic citation and a link to the article once published

Only with the specific written permission of Elsevier

If you noticed, I reformatted all the manuscripts you sent me for the Repository for y’all. They are not copies of the published articles although the pagination is similar to the printed version.  They also have appropriate bibliographic citations and link to version of record.


Q:  Question from faculty at another university.

The social work librarian at my University is out of country, so I thought I could ask you some questions regarding copyright.

1) If I download a syllabus from another Universities website and use it for my class, am I plagiarizing some other faculties work?

2) If I modify someone's syllabus and incorporate it in an article to be published and I cite the work of the (original creator of the syllabus) would that be a violation?

3) Do I need to seek written permission from the maker of the syllabus that is on a website?

4) Sometimes I get Power Point from the internet for my class and I make changes to them, should I inform the people who designed the original PP?

A:  Just last month I went to a professional conference and attended a presentation about copyright issues.  I am required to make a disclaimer.

I am a librarian and not a copyright attorney so my answers will be fairly tentative, but I hope that I can lead you in the correct direction that will keep you out of trouble.  I am not an attorney and I am not offering legal advice.

If you still have copyright questions, then you should contact an attorney for legal advice.  Likely your university has an attorney for faculty and student legal questions.

Here are some suggested research resources that are available to youReproduction of

Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians @

Copyright Basics @

Resources for Teaching Faculty @

Fair Use and Copyright Guidelines and Policies @

Blank Forms and Other Works Not Protected by Copyright @

As I said, I am a librarian and not a copyright attorney.  I am not an attorney and I am not offering legal advice.  However, I think that your questions suggest, and your statement that "I don't profess that my lecture notes/syllabus is original and copyrighted" is completely wrong.  Almost all recent work, published or unpublished, is copyrighted.  There are a few exceptions, the info from the Copyright Office about "Blank Forms and Other Works Not Protected by Copyright" outlines what recent works are not covered.  So, it is my opinion that another teacher's syllabus or a PowerPoint found on the internet are both completely copyrighted.  You should be more careful.

The thing is that most works are not worth protecting, so you will generally not be hit with a lawsuit.  It is like running a red light, most of the time you will not be hit, but sometimes there will be an accident.  As I said before, I am a librarian and not a copyright attorney.  I am not an attorney and I am not offering legal advice.

If you want a more informed opinion then you might want to contact a copyright attorney at your university.


Q:  I talked with my mentor and she told me to contact you and find out if Database Tool is available to be used. I have emailed one of the owners of the tool asking for permission to use the tool and I am waiting for his reply.  Since, the tool was developed a long time ago (1962), I hope it will be available to be used.

A:  I checked the copyright office ( Given what I know about copyright, and I am not a lawyer!!!!!, it was not registered for copyright during a time when such registration was required and such registration was not renewed. I am able to determine that this item is now in the public domain and able to be used.


Q:  Can you give me the quick and dirty on citing photos?  I don’t believe this is mentioned in the brochure.  Does a simple “Retrieved from www.url . . “ under the photo suffice?  (The first of these assignments is due tomorrow.)

A:  I am not a lawyer; so if you believe your question requires legal interpretation, please consult a licensed legal professional. 

If this if for the brochure, yes, the identification works just fine.

If the thingy is from something like Microsoft Office, identify with something like

   (Microsoft Office image)

Alternatively, somewhere on the brochure one would include the disclaimer, “All graphics from Microsoft Office.”

The brochure is not a manuscript; the APA manual provides instruction for a manuscript.

The suggestions above are to allow for plagiarism and/or copyright considerations.  (If this brochure is distributed outside of class, there would be additional copyright concerns)

If the students want to know more about copyright, they can consult the UT System copyright pages.

Q:  If we use pictures in this assignment are we required to cite them? I'm starting to run pretty short on space.

A:  They do need to be cited.  You can do that in a small font underneath the picture.


Q:  I was asked these questions by a faculty member and could not answer her as confidently as I would like.

The faculty member has access by subscription to a  journal that she reads online.   Can she PDF the material and share with students by posting to a discussion board in Blackboard?

The faculty member occasionally finds an electronic article through the library that she would like to share with students. Can she post the PDF to the discussion board?

I have read several things on the System and Library website and still had questions.

A:  They seem to be missing some information. What they can post depends on the contract they signed. If they did not sign anything and they cannot find the permissions from the publisher, they should not post.

We know lots of faculty around campus are interpreting UT System guidelines in a way that favors the faculty member’s biases. This will cause a problem, maybe not today or tomorrow but soon. There are publishers who are actively bringing educational institutions to court in order to set industry favorable precedence.  UT System schools are being eyed as possible targets.

UT System has protocols, services, and advice set up; there are no excuses and little wiggle room.

Law does not have to “make sense.” If we don’t like it, we can advocate to our congress people for a change in the law. We might not like the changes either because we are only some of the voices.


… “impulsive act done once for educational reasons” is done once for one class taught a single semester. If the courses last 5 weeks, that is a semester. A second semester indicates time for planning and is reposting.

The library often obtains copyright clearance (CC) permission for a full year when we know the course will be taught multiple semesters. The library may be paying serious money for this so we try to keep the costs down to $75-100 per item per semester.

The library really likes the UT System CC license ‘cause it reduces our costs and faculty risks.


Q:  In talking with several faculty, they have indicated that it is OK to post a PDF file of an article on Bb for the students. One said it had to be at least a year old and you could only use is for a year - then you would have to use a different article.

Are there new copyright rules about sharing materials? I know some journals indicate no copying and specify for electronic distribution.

Does UTA have any of this written out and give the specifics?

I know some faculty use the 'fair use' very loosely.

It would be like me making pdf copies of the Detail documents from a journal and then just putting them on Bb rather than telling the students to go to the e-journal and I give them the # and name of the document.  -

 I do post links that I find on the web - then the student has to access and download if they desire - is that OK?

 At least 1 faculty says that things had changed and you could give anything you want to students (that saves them the time of having to access - what will they do in the real world!).

 I am looking for some official document - is there one?

 A:  I am not a lawyer so I can only express my understanding and library policy.

Here is the logic.

 (a)    Online posting is a republishing function, not loaning a single copy, because the act of posting is republishing and makes as many copies as there are viewers.

(b)   The professor gets paid to teach – there is an economic component that a student is not restricted by. The student is more protected by “Academic use” than is the faculty member.

(c)    The library pays for resources, including copyright clearance for postings – the institution knows how to abide by the law.

(d)   UT Arlington is part of the UT System, and thus the Texas government, and is a big target with deep pockets very attractive for lawsuits.

 Having the item limited to a course environment where a password is required simply limits the number of viewers and thus the number of violations.

Copyright clearance must be addressed for these postings.

Providing a URL link avoids the issues of posting/republishing because the owner maintains control of the copy and can take it down.

If the professor regularly posts the same article then this is a reserve function and would need to cleared for copyright clearance.

If the action is an impulsive act done once for educational reasons and could not have been planned, it is considered ok, as long as it is still restricted by login requirements.

The UT System has a copyright clearance center contract which allows certain articles journal titles to be treated as e-reserve and posted to password restricted settings (just like the library does).

The UT System copyright contract site is: (UT authentication required).

Check the journal title at this site.

For articles from library databases, link to the article using the “permalink” or equivalent – see Linking Directly to Individual Articles and Records ( if the URL does not already have the element.


Q:  I just found out that one of the instruments you compiled included the Scale. I just wanna ask for your help for me to be able to ask permission to use it for our research. I'm having a hard time finding the contact details of the author for the said instrument.

A:  I do not own copyright of any of the instruments in the database so cannot give permission.  The copyright holder has to be asked.  I believe he may be contacted at …


Q:  I am a master student from Thailand. I would like to request your good self to kindly send me the following instruments for my study. My topic is …

A:  As noted on each of the Database web pages:

“The pages are provided for information purposes only.
Due to US copyright laws and my professional position, I am, personally, unable to provide copies of these instruments.
To obtain any of these resources, you can:
1. Check the library closest to you to determine if it has the source volume;
2. Contact YOUR library Interlibrary Loan department or other services available at your institution”

 However, I was able to locate an internet version of each of the instruments you are seeking.

While I am providing these URLs, please be advised that being viewable on the internet by no means indicates that these resources are available to copy, use in research, or otherwise use in any other way other than to view. Permission for use must be obtained from the author/creator/copyright holder of each instrument separately.  [Contact information provided.]


Q:  I am a 4th year college student majoring in Psychology. Currently I am working with my thesis/research proposal as part of the curriculum.  I was searching over the internet for an instrument that I be used to measure …. In connection with this, I found a copy of Scale on the net linking to your site, however I cannot have access with the said test. I was hoping that you could help me and lend a copy. I guarantee you that the copy will be used only for the said study. It will be a great help to me and to my study.

A:  I presume that you want to use the instrument shown on page … 

I do not have the authority to distribute any of the instruments that are listed on the website that I created. The website specific indicates that the listed materials are located within the texts indicated. I have absolutely no authority to grant permission to anyone to use any of the instruments in research. Viewing, distributing, and using in research are three separate permissions that only the copyright holder can authorize.  The copyright holder may be contacted at …


Q:  I am writing to ask for your advice on an issue regarding copyright. A student in one of spring classes is visually impaired and wants me to send electronic copies of assigned readings to the disability office for them to convert into readable format. I am willing to help her. But before doing that, I would like to make sure that it is appropriate (from the perspective of copyright) for me to send the full text of all the articles for this purpose. Could you please advise whether it is okay for me to send all the articles to the disability office directly?

A:  I am not an expert on copyright law, but I believe that this action is not a violation of the copyright law.  If I were you, I would indeed send electronic copies of assigned readings to the disability office for them to convert into readable format.

The Office for Students with Disabilities can help you with this.  I have worked with them many times, and I think you will be pleased with the work of the Office for Students with Disabilities.

Office for Students with Disabilities @

I hope that this answers your question clearly and completely.  If it does not, I can suggest other resources related to copyright law that might prove to be useful.


Q:  I am doing a directed studies for a professor and my assignment is to find out what exactly we need to be able to use pictures, some that are from different artists. We are looking into publishing an article in a journal, a full link book, and to put some information on YouTube. We needed to know what exactly needs to be done to be able to use some of these pictures that we found through different mediums. None of the works that we are going to publish will be covered under classroom teaching though.

I am trying to seek out the copyright requirements that are needed for three areas. To publish in a journal, book, and use on YouTube.  Who do I need to get in contact with to find out this information?

A:  I can probably answer your questions as long as they aren’t too involved with the intricate complexities of copyright law.


Q:  Can you remind me where we can find the website that has music to choose from to add to a power point where we don’t have to worry about copyright?

A:  Sure, I would be happy to help.  Two such resources are and  When using a song, just check its creative commons license.  Both websites indicate the exact license the artist is using.  For example, this album,, says you must give credit to the artist, do not use it for commercial purpose, and share all derivate works under the same license.  This information is under the webpage I linked to on the right-hand column under statistics.


Q:  Copyright permission to copy form letters, examples of

A:  Checked our Q drive, found that there is a standard form letter in the AS section for course reserves.  It is dated 7/15/2001.  It appears that most of our requests are sent out automatically through the Copyright Clearance Center , but we pay for a membership for them to do this, and do the negotiating with publisher/producer. 


Q:  Do I have to include the copyright information in my Works Cited page?

A:  Directed student to MLA handout; walked student through MLA style journal article citations; recommended student consult MLA handbook while working on the Works Cited page.


Q:  I have a question that you might be able to point me in the right direction to seeking more is about digital copyright.  I am writing a manuscript on technology and have a screenshot from one of my own YouTube videos. Are all YouTube videos "owned" by YouTube/Google? Or do I have permission to use the screen shot since it is my own video? Would there be a website/source I could consult?

A:  In checking around online, I’m seeing that you retain copyright of your own videos that you upload to YouTube. Now, their terms of service do specify that you grant them (YouTube) many of the same rights you have so that they can distribute and monetize the content that you upload. But you do not relinquish your ownership in this process. Here are a couple of websites that explain it pretty clearly

Note that there are a couple of caveats: if you have a videographer help you make your video, that person may own the rights, depending on your agreement. Also, if you use copyrighted material in your video (e.g., music) that you did not get permission to use, then it obviously is not yours, but of course, you shouldn’t have used it in the first place


Q:  I am preparing a dossier of my articles for external reviewers and must include digital copies of my articles. Many of the articles I have written are available through JStor. Can I download them and pass them on to 5 different reviewers? Is it legal for me to do so?

A:  When you say "external reviewers," do you mean people who are not affiliated with UT Arlington or the UT System? Also, the answer to your question may be somewhat dependent on what kind of contract you signed with the publishers of your articles. Do you remember whether you retained any rights at all?


Q:  Will I (faculty member) be breaking copyright law if I copy chapters from earlier editions of a current textbook?

A:  I explained some copyright information to the professor and then copied my reply to the library staff who is knowledgeable about e-reserves for follow-up. The library is part of the UT System agreement with CCC, so that may make it possible.


Q:  I've been assembling a bibliography on my project. The Bib is publicly viewable on Zotero.  I also have PDFs of most of the articles listed in the bib, either from ILL or from our databases or from making the scans myself. The PDFs are not publicly available; but they are shared via DropBox with a few others working on the project.

Now for my question:

An undergrad student at another university emailed me because she's writing her thesis on a subset of my project. She would like me to share the PDFs with her. Do you think that kind of sharing would be protected by fair use? I would use Dropbox, so it would still be private.

A:  I am not a copyright expert, but from what I know about the copyright agreements we sign with the various vendors who provide content to us, I would say that sharing these PDFs outside the UT Arlington community would not be allowed. I do not believe the concept of fair use would apply here. From the U.S. Copyright Office:

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

1.       The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

2.       The nature of the copyrighted work

3.       The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

4.       The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”

Although teaching, scholarship, and research are cited as purposes in fair use, this statute is usually interpreted as allowing researchers to reproduce up to 10% of a given work for the purposes of commentary, criticism, etc. (this is a very general rule of thumb). If you share entire journal articles, you are sharing 100% of a stand-alone work. It would be like you made a copy of a book and gave it away.


Q:  Do you know if Microsoft Office clip art is copyright free?

A:  Explained terms of use for clip art and provided link to applicable section of Microsoft Terms of Use @


Q:  Am I violating copyright by copying 10 pages from this 200-page book?

A:  No


Q:  I am a Ph.D. student and am almost done with my dissertation. I would like to include a map (or maps) of the colonial territories. I found one on Google.  However, the resource is not clear to me.  I would not know how to cite it, or if I can use it without violating copyrights. Maybe there are other resources that I am not aware of. I am including the site so you would have an idea of what I mean. [Site included]

A:  Other Librarians might have a different response, but I do not think that you have a copyright problem.  For a class paper or for a dissertation, I believe that you can use the map without violating the author's copyright.  My guess it that your’s use falls under the "Fair Use" exception, but you should contact a copyright lawyer for true legal advice.  I am just giving you my librarian's opinion, and I have no legal training in the matter, and my opinion does not constitute legal advice.

On the topic of providing a correct and true citation in APA style for the webpage and the map, I suggest that you contact the new "Writing Resource Coordinator" for the School of Social Work.  [Contact information provided]


Q:  Can I link to an article within Blackboard (copyright issue)?

A:  Ok to link within blackboard.  However Harvard Business Review "prohibits" the assigning or linking of its materials.


Q:  I have found a picture that is on the cover of a book that I would like to use in a PowerPoint presentation.  I have looked at the copyright page and there is no mention of who painted the picture.  Can I use the picture and cite the book using MLA rules?  The picture excellently represents the ambiguity of the book.

A:  As long as your presentation is not open to the public (either in person or on an open website), you are fine, but yes, you certainly need to cite your sources in standard MLA format. You can find MLA guidelines here about how to cite an electronic image (e.g., from the web):