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Copyright Guide for DVC Faculty

This research guide is intended to let faculty know the basics about copyright and fair use, and how it applies to their course materials.

Copying Journal Articles- Fair Use Analysis

The Fair Use Doctrine (17 US Code sec. 107) allows instructors to use copyrighted printed/textual materials in their classes without obtaining permission, provided that certain conditions are met. 

  1. Instructors must evaluate their use of print materials using the "Four Factors" test.
  2. Copying by instructors must meet the tests of brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect.

FAQs- Face-to-Face Teaching

Question: May I copy or print an article from a periodical for distribution to the class?

Answer: Yes. Distribution of multiple copies for classroom use is Fair Use. However, the repeated use of a copyrighted work, from term-to-term, requires more scrutiny in a fair use evaluation. Repeated use, as well as a large class size, may weigh against fair use.

Question: Is there a limit to the number of articles I can copy each semester?

Answer: Yes, nine works, whether the copying is articles, chapters, or poems.

Question: If I want to use the same article next semester, do I have to ask permission?

Answer: Probably. While not an automatic disqualification, repeated use of a copyrighted work weighs against fair use. The repeated use of a copyrighted work, from term-to-term, requires particular scrutiny in a fair use evaluation.


Such a use explicitly relates to "market effect", the fourth factor in a fair use evaluation. For any repeated use to be judged as a fair use, it must be outweighed, in the balance, by the remaining three factors.

Question: Is there a way I can use the article without copying it?

Answer: Yes, check to see if the article is available online or in one of the library's databases then link to it.

Question: May I photocopy a poem for distribution to my class?

Answer: Yes, you may make one copy and distribute:

  • A complete poem if less than 250 words and if printed on not more than two pages;
  • An excerpt of a longer poem that is not more than 250 words



California State University, Long Beach. "Copyright & Fair Use for Faculty: Common Scenarios."

Scales Image: © 2008 Michael Brewer & ALA Office of Information Technology Policy.

FAQs- Online Teaching

Question: Can I post the full-text of a journal article to my course page?

Answer: No, this is not Fair Use and is not permitted.

Question: Can I link to an article licensed by the library?

Answer: Yes, linking to articles from the library's subscription databases (e.g. Academic Search Premier) is permitted.

Question: Can I link to an articles found on the Internet?

Answer: Yes, linking to Open Access Works (works available online, without license, password, or technical restrictions) is permitted.

Question: Can I link to articles with a Creative Commons License?

Answer: Yes. Depending on the license terms, you may also be able to post the article on your course page with proper attribution.

Licensed by DVC Library

Alphabetical list of the library's subscription databases, including many databases that provide full-text access to multidisciplinary and subject-specific academic journals.
EBSCO's Academic Search Premier is a multidisciplinary database that provides the full-text of more than 4,500 journals, including more than 3,700 peer-reviewed titles.