Frequently Asked Questions:  Copyright and Fair Use

I. Written work used for educational purposes

Classroom use
  • May I make copies of educational materials for my class?
    • Copying for class use must meet the tests of brevity (how much you can copy) and spontaneity (how many times you can copy). The Fair Use Checklist will help in making the determination. If you use something for one semester and for one course (within brevity guidelines), it is likely to be seen as Fair Use. Any copy must include a notice of copyright.
  • May I make copies of materials available on the web/library database?
    • The intellectual property rights for database content are controlled by the publishers, and rights vary from license to license. The best way to make articles and other electronic content available for students is to provide the persistent URL from the database record, and you can streamline the process by using e-reserves. If you should need to make copies, see
  • Know Your Copyrights for uses permitted by license and Fair Use.  
  • Does Fair use apply to traditional course reserves and e-reserves?
    • Yes, Libraries follow the Fair Use provisions of the U.S. Copyright Act. Any determination results from weighing each of the four Fair Use factors. The standard interpretation has been to limit the successive times an item can be placed on reserve.
  • What usually falls under Fair Use for e-reserves?
    • Items from library databases, including articles, e-books, recordings, and videos; any one chapter from a book or one article from a journal or magazine (as opposed to multiple chapters from the same book or multiple articles from the same journal); any item prepared by the instructor and to which he/she holds the copy right (sample tests, syllabi, lecture notes, etc.)
  • How can I find out more about e-reserves?
Course Packets
  • How do I secure permissions for published work to be included in a course packet?
    • Contact the bookstore for assistance.
  • Where can I find copyright information for course packets?

II.  Films, movies, commercially produced music

Films/Movies/Commercially Produced Songs for educational purposes:
  • May I use a copy of a film/song in my class?
    • You may once if you do not have time to secure a legal copy under fair use standards.
  • May I use a legal copy of a film/song in my class?
    • Yes, if it is a systematic part of the class.
  • May I use a film/song in my class that is available on the internet?
    • Yes, if it is a systematic part of the class. Confirm by reviewing any policies specific to the web site. In some instances these conditions will be more generous than those of the Statutory License for educational use. Check for these under headings such as Copyright, Terms of Use, About This Site, or Legals.
  • May I use an excerpt from a film/song in a Power Point for a class? 
    • Yes.
  • May I make a copy of a legal copy of a film/song in its entirety?
    • No.
  • May I make a copy of a film/song in its entirety from the internet?
    • No.
  • May I charge an admission fee for educational uses of films/songs?
    • No.

Films/Movie/Commercially Produced Songs for entertainment purposes:
  • How do I obtain permission to use films/movies/commercially produced songs?
    • Contact The Office of Student Involvement or Marbeck Center. Bluffton University has agreements with some film/movie distributors. Bluffton has a licensing agreement for songs.  
  • May I use a film/song for entertainment purposes for a club?
    • Not without obtaining permission.
  • May we charge an admission fee for entertainment uses of films/songs
    • Yes, if you have permission.
  • May I include clips of films/songs in PR/motivational, etc. presentations for athletic teams, clubs, etc.?
    • You may use clips of films. It is always best to use a legal copy or stream.Bluffton has a licensing agreement for use of songs. You may not use a song not covered by the agreement.
  • May I make copies of the #4 presentations for distribution to student groups?
    • No. Not without specific permission from the holder of the copyright. Yes, if you use copyright free media from a free media site for a listing. 

III. Video/Audio recording              

  • May I video/audio record a class?
    • All members of the class must be made aware of any taping. Anyone who declines must be given the option to leave. Videotaping/audio taping is permitted if everyone who can be identified gives permission.
  • May I make copies of a class video/audio recording?
    • No copies may be made of the original tape without permission of everyone who is identifiable.
  • May I video/audio record a public presentation?
    • Yes, if you have permission of the speaker. See permission form available on the Musselman Library website. Technically, those in attendance will see camera(s) and microphones and by implication, know the public event is being recorded giving their tacit approval to be recorded.  An addition, a sign, statement in the program or a public announcement stating the public event is being recorded before the event starts is advised. The most conservative approach is to ask those who have asked questions to sign a release form at the close of the program. 
  • May I make a copy of a video/audio recording of a public presentation?
    • No copies may be made of the original tape without the permission of everyone who is identifiable.
  • May I video/audio record a performance?
    • Only if the performers give permission. Check the limitations imposed by the copyright holder of the piece that is being performed.
  • May I videotape/audiotape a performance that includes published works (i.e. music, play)?
    • The Bluffton Theatre and Music Departments put a statement in all programs that no video or audio taping or flash photography is allowed.  The theater department takes pictures during the dress rehearsal. If rights to video record are purchased, the theater department has the right to distribute copies to the cast and crew. The music department has specific guidelines that must be followed when an event is held under its name. Please contact the department (ext. 3347) with any questions.
  • May I post a copy of a video/audio recording on the web?
    • If you have all permissions secured. 

*Prior to using anything from the web, check specific policies for the website restrictions or conditions for use which supersede all other restrictions/conditions.