The Institute adheres to strict copyright and fair use guidelines for photocopying, scanning, classroom handouts, and course reserves.

U.S. law provides protection to authors, creators, and publishers of works. It also enumerates specific uses that do not infringe copyright for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research (fair use, see below). The Middlebury Institute values and respects intellectual property rights, even as it recognizes an equal responsibility to advance the needs of scholarship and teaching within the framework of the law.

The following are guidelines only and do not constitute legal advice that may be assumed to be applicable to every situation. In some instances, federal court cases result in interpretation of copyright law that pertains to specific acts of copying or to particular media. Contract law (such as license and purchase agreements) takes precedence over fair use.

Guidelines for Fair Use Copying

On a case-by-case basis, consider these four factors together for each item you desire to copy. In cases where the analysis weighs against claiming fair use for any particular item, the user should seek permission from the copyright holder. See also Appendix A: Applying the Fair Use Factors below.

Consider the nature of the use

  • The copy is for nonprofit educational purpose.

  • Multiple copies for classroom use are permitted if the material is an excerpt and does not infringe on the marketplace.

  • A copy for scholarship or research is permitted if the factors below are met.

Consider the nature of the work

  • The more creative and less factual a work, the more it is protected by copyright law. Some examples of degrees of protection under the law:

More protection Less protection
Fiction Factual works
Original movies News broadcasts
Creative works Compilations

Portion of a work to be copied

  • The portion of a work being copied should be appropriate to the need.

  • It is usually not permitted to copy an entire or significant portion of a publication or work that is still under copyright without permission of the copyright holder, although there are rare situations where a more extensive use may be permissible.

  • For creative works, small portions should be copied unless permission has been acquired.

  • For factual items, greater portions may be copied under fair use.

Sales of original materials (“the market”) related to copies being made

Consider copies for classroom use on case-by-case basis:

  • The student would not normally be a potential purchaser of the work unless enrolled in the course.

  • Since the student uses the excerpts as a member of the class, the use probably has very little, if any, effect on the actual or potential market for the work.

Classroom Handouts

Copyrighted material may be provided to students in a class if

  • The instructor is the copyright owner of the material, or

  • The copyright owner of the material grants permission, or

  • The material is in the public domain, or

  • The use of the material is a fair use under the law (see above)

Course Management Systems

Copyright issues must be considered when placing protected materials in an online setting, applying the same factors as for classroom handouts or seeking permission.

  • Materials must be limited by password access to those currently enrolled in Institute courses.

  • Materials may be distributed outside the class or posted on publicly accessible Internet sites if and only if copyright permission has been secured.

Course Web Pages

The following are freely permitted on a course web page:

  • Links to others’ works (i.e., links from your web page to another image, document, table, etc.)

  • Your own work

  • Works in the public domain

  • U.S. government publications

Considerations for Fair Use of Copyrighted Material


  • Ensure web page is accessible only to students currently enrolled in your course.

  • At end of semester, take down web page with digitized materials or remove copyrighted materials.


  • Include copyright attribution and citations to original works.


  • Keep portions of copied materials brief/minimal.

  • Number of digitized texts and audiovisual images/clips should be few and brief.

Effect on Market

  • Text, images, etc., on a course web page should never be extensive enough to substitute for the purchase of an issue of a journal, book, recording, or course pack.

Library Course Reserves and Electronic Reserves

Library course reserves are an extension of the classroom. Copies provided via library reserves and electronic reserves (ERes) are considered equivalent to multiple copies for classroom use, limited to use by those enrolled in the course.

  • The library applies fair use principles when making materials available on reserve, whether in print or online.

  • All reserve materials are either library-owned or provided by the faculty member.

  • Copyright permissions may be required by the library in instances where a significant number of excerpts from the same publication are included on reserve, the use of items is repeated from semester to semester (hence, potentially affecting the marketplace), or a copy of an entire work that is not owned by the Institute or library is placed on reserve.

Library Online Content

Licenses governing the use of library full text databases, electronic journals, ebooks, and other digital resources may follow fair use or may have more or less liberal use restrictions.[1] The terms of a license will generally prevail over copyright law. By making use of licensed material, you inherently agree to its license terms, even if those terms limit your fair use rights. Library staff can assist in determining what uses are permissible under each license.

Photocopying, Scanning, Digitization

Copyright law limits the reproduction of copyrighted material.[2]

  • Usually, only a small portion of a copyrighted work may be legally copied unless special permission has been secured.

  • The library will not copy or digitize an entire book, journal, CD, DVD or film for individual use unless the item is in the public domain or copyright permission has been acquired.

  • Individuals should be aware that copyright restrictions may apply in making their own copies of entire items, particularly if the item is currently copyrighted and available for purchase. Copies should remain for private use and never be redistributed or resold.

  • Based on court cases, congressional hearings, and agreements between publishers and the academic community, this typically means the following may be copied from books and journals:

    • Single chapter of a book
    • Small portion of a copyrighted book
    • Single article from a journal
  • Libraries may be permitted to make copies of entire works for archival purposes.

  • Particular restrictions apply to media such as video (see section below).

  • Use of copyrighted films, videos, recordings, and software generally requires permission, purchase, or licensing.

  • Only legally acquired copies should be used in classroom presentations.

Web Page Content

Institute policy does not permit the posting of copyrighted material on its publicly accessible web servers without permission of the copyright holder.

  • You must have the written permission of the copyright holder to distribute any materials of a third party (including software, database files, documentation, articles, graphics files, and audio or video files) via the web or other Institute Internet servers.

  • For course web pages, see above guidelines.


The display (screening) of films, broadcasts, videos, and DVDs is affected by copyright law and licensing agreements.

  • Films, broadcasts, videos, and DVDs may be shown in a face-to-face classroom setting during the regular course of instruction. The item used in the classroom or placed on reserve must be one of the following:

    • A legally purchased copy acquired by the Institute or the course instructor (copyright law explicitly prohibits the presentation of unlawfully made copies of films in educational settings)

    • A copy made by the Institute/library under copyright law for preservation/archival purposes

    • A rental copy, which may legally be used or placed on reserve

  • Use of materials borrowed from the library is limited to private viewing, with the exception of classroom screenings and viewings directly related to a current Institute course by students enrolled in that course. Most other showing and viewing of films, videos, or DVDs constitutes a public performance, and permission for the showing must be obtained by paying a licensing fee to the copyright holder or licensing agent.

  • Students who need to obtain public performance licensing for an event should contact the library. The library staff can provide information about purchase or licensing of films and broadcasts for curricular use.

  • Students and faculty members who plan to schedule screenings should be mindful of the following guidelines:

    • Screenings of films or videos for which the library holds no non-theatrical public performance rights may only be listed in the calendar if the screening is for a specific course and the number and/or name of the course is also listed in the calendar.

    • Films or videos screened for entertainment purposes, or for which the Institute has non-theatrical public performance rights, may be advertised and promoted only on campus. None of this promotion may say that the public is invited, nor will there be separate admission prices for ID and non-ID card holders. In general, all off-campus promotion is prohibited, including posters and flyers, unless for those specific titles for which the Institute has obtained rights.

    • Presentations viewed through ERes or a course web/server site must be restricted to those registered in the course. Access to the materials via ERes or the web shall be removed after the semesters in which they are required course materials.

Appendix A

Applying the fair use factors.

According to an opinion of the Attorney General of the State of Georgia issued in 1996:

Teachers should always act in good faith in copying excerpts for classroom use; and his or her conduct in copying must be such that an objective observer would conclude that the teacher acted in good faith. Therefore, it would be appropriate for teachers to comply with the following factors:

  • Limit the size of the excerpt copied to pedagogical needs.

  • Limit the sale of the copies to members of the class.

  • Limit the student’s cost to the cost of reproducing the materials.

In summary, notwithstanding broad copyright notices that may purport to prohibit any copying without written permission, copying for classroom use is a legitimate activity and a legal right under the fair use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. Moreover, where a teacher or librarian or other employee of a nonprofit institution infringes a copyright with a good-faith belief that the copying was a fair use, the Copyright Act requires courts to remit statutory damages if there is an infringement action.[3]


In cases where the fair use analysis weighs against using any particular item, the user should seek permission from the copyright holder.


[1] Adapted from Common Academic Uses of Copyrighted Material. Syracuse University Library.

[2] In good-faith application of fair use, only portions of works will be copied by Institute staff for research purposes, library reserve, or classroom use unless a work is in the public domain. Some statements/agreements between publishers, libraries, and educational institutions suggest guidelines that provide a “safe harbor” by limiting the quantity and frequency of copies made for educational purposes. These guidelines are not actual law, and following them assumes (but does not guarantee) that limited classroom use of copies is protected from a copyright suit.

[3] Department of Law, State of Georgia, UNOFFICIAL OPINION. Re: The Scope of the Fair Use Doctrine, 17 U.S.C. §107, for making copies for classroom use, for teachers who make copies for research and scholarship, and the potential liability of teachers, librarians, and employees of nonprofit institutions for exceeding the parameters of fair use. Issued 14-February-1996.

For More Information

See U.S. Copyright Office.