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Fair Use and Copyright: Copyright Scenarios

This Guide provides a one-stop place for Lane teachers, administrators and staff to consult on copyright and fair use issues.

10 Common Copyright Scenarios

Scenario 1
A teacher rents a DVD of the film Hotel Rwanda from a local video store to show in her class on African History. The disc is labeled For Home Use Only. Is this use permitted?

This use falls within the 110(1) exemption of the U.S. Copyright Law that permits a classroom viewing in the context of a class session. Public performances of the video to a campus club would not be covered. Showing the same DVD to the class by "streaming" it through a Moodle site is not covered by this exemption and certain criteria would need to be met to deliver the material in that fashion.

Scenario 2
A professor wants to make a DVD of an entire film available on her Moodle course. Does she need to get permission?

Most films fall under the category of dramatic literary or musical works and the TEACH Act specifies use of limited portions of these works. As long as the Moodle site were restricted to the class and the film was directly related to the class content, a segment that would be comparable to what one would show in an individual class session would probably fall within the TEACH guidelines. If however, she wants to show the entire film by streaming it through Moodle, she must either make a fair use case or get permission. Looking at the four factors one can see that factors in favor of fair use are the educational use and impact on the market (assuming this is a one time use and that the faculty member or institution has already purchased the DVD). Factors weighing against fair use would be the nature of the work which is highly creative and the amount used. In this case, it may be prudent to obtain permission from the copyright holder.

Scenario 3
A professor has scanned several hundred images from various texts to represent Western culture and politics during a particular period of history. He wants to leave them on his Moodle site throughout the term so that his students can consult them as they wish in relationship to the texts they are reading.

Although the works probably would be limited to those enrolled in this professor’s class and seem relevant to the teaching content of the course, aspects of this use would be difficult to justify under the TEACH Act. The amount of the work used goes beyond that which could be construed as a single classroom session and the individual images are full works. Fair Use may apply in this case, but if the works were used in multiple terms, permissions may be required. Linking to images available in licensed databases could be a safer choice.

Scenario 4
A teacher wishes to keep the same articles on a Moodle site or on e-reserve for successive terms.

Except for works in the public domain or those that are licensed, you need copyright permission in order to keep the same materials on reserve for subsequent terms.

Scenario 5
The Library's copy of a famous documentary series on VHS has finally worn out. The series has not been reissued on DVD, and is no longer available from the producers. A teacher wishes to keep using the series in class. The Library has identified a source which has duplicated the series from VHS to DVD.  Can the Library acquire the duplicated DVDs?

No. Even though the series is no longer available from the official producers, it is a violation of the producers' copyright to provide a copy from an unauthorized source. However, the Library may be able to burn DVDs from the old VHS copies.

Scenario 6
A teacher wishes to let students download articles that have been placed on Moodle.

In general this is not a good idea because it would be very easy for them to redistribute the electronic documents. You should include a warning in the materials notifying students that the materials are made available through fair use or the TEACH Act and further copying and redistributing the material is a violation of the copyright law.

Scenario 7
A teacher wishes to link to Web pages in her Moodle site.

It appears that there is no copyright infringement in linking to another site. There may be cases where it is prudent to link to a top site or home page rather than link deeply into a site. In the latter case you may be skirting important information about copyright, uses, advertising or other information that the copyright holder wants the user of its site to encounter. Similarly, when frames are used a user may be directed to another site that appears in the frame of the original site, potentially creating a problem of commercial competition if the user cannot tell who created the original information.

Scenario 8
A teacher has assigned his students to use images of photographs or art works from museums to create a poster about a book they have read for the course. Students can use multiple images or use image software to manipulate the images. Is this use permissible?

Although the students would be creating derivative works, this application may fall within fair use assuming that no further use will be made of the material beyond the classroom (e.g., the material is not going to be posted to a public Web site or displayed at an exhibit). To acknowledge the moral rights of the artist, it would be appropriate for the students to document in writing the nature of the changes they made to the original works and to cite the ownership and description of those works.

Scenario 9
A teacher wants to email articles to his students.

This is not the best idea. You have no way of controlling downstream uses and the practice may be considered distribution, a right reserved by the copyright holder. A better choice is to link to the article from your Moodle or secure Web page.

Scenario 10
A student discovers that an overseas subsidiary of a textbook publisher is selling the publisher's class textbook at a considerable discount. He buys some copies overseas and resells them to his classmates, passing on the savings. The textbook is legitimate and from the same publisher. Does this violate the publisher's copyright?

Stay tuned!  The United States Supreme Court is working this out as we speak.

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