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Copyright Resources

A guide to the tricky world of copyright: what is covered, what is not, and how to tell the difference.

Copyright & Fair Use During COVID-19 at the Pratt Institute Libraries

(Effective July 23, 2020)

Now more than ever, faculty and students will need increased digital access to course materials for remote learning, while access to physical items from the libraries is limited.   This document provides guidance on how to make scanned materials available to students while operating within the terms of fair use.

During this period the Pratt Institute Libraries will do their best to assist faculty with locating course materials in formats that can be utilized within the usual parameters of copyright law and principles of fair use.  When possible, this may include purchasing electronic copies of books or assisting with the location of equivalent materials or useful alternatives.  The libraries are also preparing to assist by scanning library materials for faculty and students, with some limitations on the quantity of scans, scanning quality, and file size.  In so doing, the Libraries remain committed to our mission of providing outstanding service and access to a resource-rich environment that facilitates critical thinking and creative teaching and learning. 


A courtroom is the only place to get a definitive determination on a case of fair use but tools such as the American Library Association’s  Fair Use Evaluator  can help you determine whether your use of materials falls under fair use. Please consider the following general guidelines to minimize your risk of copyright infringement:

  • Check to be sure that materials are not already available in another format, such as e-books and electronic articles.  The Libraries may already have the materials you are looking for here.

  • Only make available the amount that is needed for your immediate educational purpose (1-2 chapters at a time, weekly assignments)

  • Post copyrighted material only to password-protected Canvas

  • Advise students to not keep materials beyond the duration of the class and not to share with others.  Access to these materials should be limited to those enrolled in the course for this semester only.

  • Remove digitized content as soon as it is no longer needed 

  • Password protection is in compliance with Fair Use and also useful for material that is covered by a copying license stipulating a definitive number of users (post readings to Canvas or google drive) 


Digitized materials made during the COVID-19 public health emergency must prominently include the following statement for faculty and students about how to use and dispose of scanned materials: 

This scan is being provided as part of the Pratt Institute’s efforts to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus to our students, staff and faculty through minimization of in-person contact. It is for your personal use only, related to your Pratt courses and academic pursuits, and intended for use only when a personal copy or a copy on physical reserve at the Libraries is unavailable or unfeasible during the current crisis. Please discard this copy once you have completed the necessary use of it and/or can safely access your personal copy or the physical copy at the Library and do not share the scanned copy outside of your class.

You can learn more about Fair Use here and how other libraries are being directed on digitization and fair use in blog posts from the Library of Congress and ARL.

Contact your library liaison or the Reference Desk if you have any questions.

A Fair(y) Use Tale

This short by Prof. Eric Faden of Bucknell University pokes fun at the Walt Disney Corp's stringent defense of its intellectual property by using, through the doctrine of Fair Use, short clips of Disney films for the educational purpose of explaining Fair Use.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License

What is Fair Use?

"Fair use" refers to the specific uses of copyrighted material that are allowed under copyright protection without requiring permission from the copyright owner (17 U.S.C. §107). These uses include criticism, parody, commentary, journalism, education and research.

The ability to claim use of something under "fair use" relies on the following factors:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

(U.S. Copyright Office: Fair Use)

Fair Use Resources


The information presented here is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.