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Copyright and Fair Use: Borrowed Media for Instruction

Have you been creating rich media resources for your students?

Do you use materials on your course site that you borrowed from other sources?

Could you be breaking the law?

Some examples of rich media include scanned images used in classroom presentations, audio or video clips used in the classroom or as homework resources, graphs and charts, and scanned texts. These materials are typically used in blended courses, distributed via course management systems (such as Canvas at IU), online reserves, podcasts, third-party systems, course websites, and other online means. When these materials are created by or owned by others, then instructors must consider whether their proposed use of these materials is a lawful fair use of copyrighted material. This resource can help instructors understand the fair use exception to US copyright law and how to analyze their intended use of materials.

Instructors can analyze their proposed use of materials with the Fair Use Checklist, developed by Dr. Kenneth Crews, J.D., director of Columbia University's Libraries/Information Services Copyright Advisory Office (formerly director of the IUPUI Copyright Management Center).

Fair use of materials is evaluated on four factors of the proposed use:

  • purpose
  • nature
  • amount
  • the market effect

Each factor must be analyzed and evaluated for each item used.

The checklist takes a step-by-step approach to evaluating the fair use of a copyrighted work. Analysis of an intended use will probably be mixed, both favoring and opposing the fair use. Instructors should be reasonable and conservative in evaluating the factors of fair use. After an instructor fills out the form, he or she can consider whether the balance tips toward fair use or away from fair use. Instructors should keep the filled-out form as a record of the good-faith decision-making process of a proposed instructional use.

The Columbia Libraries’ site also offers some scenarios of use for further clarity.

Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University has created—entirely out of Disney content—a fun and bold commentary on copyright and the fair use exception. Chapter 4 discusses fair use.


For more help or information

For information about using media in your course, contact Cordah Robinson or email If you seek additional advice on fair use for instruction, you may wish to contact IU Counsel to discuss the legal use of media in your IUB course at 812-855-9739.