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Copyright and Fair Use

A Guide to Information and Resources Related to Copyright and Fair Use

Copyright Resources for Online Teaching

Linking vs. Posting

Articles and other materials from library databases are subject to license agreements that specify how database contents may be used. For information on how database materials can be used, including whether it is permitted to post PDFs of materials on classes, contact Ask-A-Librarian.

Generally, all database materials can be made available through Blackboard by linking to the appropriate database. Linking is just as easy as attaching a PDF, but it is a better option for providing access to licensed material while staying within copyright and license terms. To learn how to provide permalinks to database articles that your students can access throughout the semester.

You also have the option of creating an e-reserve of database links using Course Reserves.This service creates a storehouse of permalinks outside of Blackboard for students to access licensed reading material for the course.

When there is no license agreement specifying how materials can be used, the U.S. Copyright Act applies to posting PDFs of library materials on Blackboard. Copyright law permits posting in three situations:

  1. the work is in the public domain 
  2. you have permission from the copyright owner 
  3. your use qualifies as Fair Use

What Can I Put in Blackboard?

What do you do with the copyrighted materials?



How to Use

Public Domain Materials (Government documents, work dated before 1923 with no renewal)


Creative Commons Licenses


Open Educational Resources


Owned Content


Licensed Content


Table by Brett D. Currier, CC-BY-NC

Exemptions for Teaching

The TEACH Act makes many exemptions for face to face courses, but online teaching is more conditional due to the nature of the web. A good rule of thumb is using an amount of a work comparable to that performed or displayed in a live classroom such as limiting access and copies to registered students and/or individual class sessions. Fair Use claims may be made by instructors where TEACH act guidelines may not be clear or use is integral to the class. For example using part of a book chapter during the weeks students may be in the process of getting the textbook can be a fair use claim.


Got a question? Contact your Personal Librarian or the Scholarly Communication/ Copyright Librarian at for any questions not answered in this post, or specific to your situation.