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U.S. law provides protection to authors, creators and publishers of works, and enumerates specific uses that do not infringe on copyright. These uses include the following:

  • Criticism
  • Comment
  • News reporting
  • Teaching
  • Scholarship or research

Middlebury values and respects the intellectual property rights of content creators, as well as the rights of others to use copyrighted content without permission within the framework of fair use and other uses permitted under the law 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 can 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; also, contract law (e.g. EULAs, licenses, and purchase agreements) takes precedence over fair use.

Fair Use

Consider these four factors together for each item you desire to reproduce without seeking explicit permission. In cases where the analysis weighs against claiming fair use for any particular item, the user should seek permission from the copyright holder.

1. The nature of the use:

  • Nonprofit and educational uses are generally favored above commercial use
  • Creating multiple copies for classroom use is generally permitted if the material consists of excerpts and does not infringe on the market place
  • Creating copies for “scholarship or research” is permitted, if also sufficiently supported by the other factors below
  • Since the mid-1990s, case law has generally held transformative uses to be more likely to be considered fair than non-transformative uses

2. The nature of the work being used:

  • The more creative and less factual a work, the more it is protected by copyright law
  • Types of works receiving more protection:
    • fiction
    • original movies
    • creative works
  • Types of works receiving less protection:
    • factual works
    • news broadcasts
    • compilations

3. The amount being copied:

  • The amount of a work being copied should be appropriate to the need
  • Generally, the smaller the portion of a work being copied, the likelier the use is to be considered fair
  • For creative works, generally only small portions should be copied unless permission has been acquired
  • For factual works, larger portions may be copied under fair use
  • Usually, copying an entire work, or a significant portion of a work under copyright, without permission of the copyright holder is usually not considered fair use
  • There may be, however, situations where a more extensive use may be permissible (e.g., perhaps when the entire work is very short and a portion is not sufficient); in these cases, please consult with the library copyright agent or seek legal expertise

4. The effect on the market:

  • Consider copies for classroom use on case-by-case basis.
    • If the student would not normally be a potential purchaser of the work unless enrolled in the course, copying excerpts for class members probably has very little, if any, effect on the actual or potential market for the work
    • Copying materials marketed primarily for educational use (e.g. workbooks, etc.) should generally be considered to have a negative effect on the market value of the original material

Classroom Handouts

Copyrighted material can be provided to students in a class under the following circumstances:

  • 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 Packs

The Middlebury College Store prepares and sells course packs that include photocopied readings.

Because copyrighted material is packaged for resale, permissions are required for all items included in a course pack, unless the item is in the public domain
Copyright fees are built into the selling price of the compilation
Email the College Store or call (802) 443-5334 for course pack requests

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 College courses
Materials must be limited to the duration of the course
Materials can be distributed outside the class or posted on publicly accessible internet sites if and only if copyright permission has been secured

Course Web Pages

Consider all the following for fair use of copyrighted material:

  1. Access: the web page should be accessible only to students currently enrolled in your course or either the web page or the copyrighted materials should be removed at end of semester
  2. Attribution: include copyright attribution and citations to original works
  3. Brevity: the portions of copyrighted materials copied should be kept to the minimum amount needed for pedagogical purposes or the number of texts and audiovisual images/clips should be kept to the minimum number needed for pedagogical purposes
  4. Effect on market: the text, images, etc., on a course webpage should not be extensive enough to substitute for the purchase of an issue of a journal, a book, recording, or a course pack

Freely permitted on a course web page:

  • Links (URLs) to other works
  • Works for which you own the copyright
    (note: you may not hold copyright to published research articles you have authored if, for example, you have assigned copyright to the publisher)
  • Problem sets, sample exams, class and lecture notes, photographs, video, audio, etc. that you have created
  • Works in the public domain
    • in general, works published in the United States before 1924 may be freely copied
    • this public domain calculator offers guidance about which works are in the public domain
  • U.S. Government publications
    • federal documents published through the Government Printing Office are not protected by copyright and may be freely copied

Course Reserves (Print and Electronic)

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
Reserve materials must be either library-owned or provided by the faculty member
Copyright permissions may be required by the library when:
a significant number of excerpts from the same publication are included on reserve, or
the use of items is repeated from semester to semester (potentially affecting the market place), or
a copy of an entire work not owned by the College or library is placed on reserve

Online Journals and Databases

Licenses governing the use of library full text databases, electronic journals, ebooks, and other digital resources may follow fair use, or may be more or less restrictive
Contract law, as provided for via licenses with our database, journal, etc., vendors, generally takes precedence over copyright law
By using material licensed by the Library from outside publishers/vendors, 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.

Usually only a small portion of a copyrighted work may be legally copied unless special permission has been secured
Reprographics and the Library will generally 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 for books and journals
a small portion of a book
a single article from a journal
Under certain conditions, libraries are permitted to reproduce copyrighted works, including:
entire works for archival purposes
audio-visual resources that are deteriorating or for which the playback equipment required to use the resource is obsolete and no longer readily available
Additional restrictions apply to media such as music and video (see sections below)
The 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

College 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 copy to distribute any materials of a third party (including software, database files, documentation, articles, graphics files, audio or video files) via the web or other College internet servers
see the guidelines above for course web pages
Copyright permission must be secured if course web pages are made publicly accessible and they include any copyrighted material


The display (screening) of films, broadcasts, videos and DVDs in courses and for non-curricular events are affected by copyright law and licensing agreements.

  1. 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 College or the course instructor.
    • A copy made by the College/Library under copyright law for preservation/archival purposes educational settings)
    • A rental copy, which may legally be used or placed on reserve as well
  2. The 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 College course by students enrolled in that course
    • Most other showings and viewings of films, videos or DVDs constitute a public performance and permission for the showing must be obtained by paying a public performance licensing (PPL) fee to the copyright holder or licensing agent
  3. Students who need to obtain public performance licensing for an event should contact the Student Activities Office, to help them navigate the process
    • Sue Driscoll (Davis Family Library,, 802-443-2048) can work with students or groups seeking to purchase or license specific films for curricular use.
  4. Students and faculty members who plan to schedule screenings should be mindful of the following guidelines:
    • Screenings of films or videos for which we hold no non-theatrical public performance rights should not be advertised
    • Films or videos screened for entertainment purposes, or for which the College has non-theatrical public performance rights, may be advertised and promoted on- or off-campus (e.g. WRMC-FM, ArtsBeat, Addison Independent, The Campus, etc)
  5. Presentations viewed through electronic reserves (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 following the terms in which they are viewed as part of the curriculum.


For musical works that remain under copyright, only portions should be copied for study purposes

  1. Multiple copies of a “performable unit” should not be provided to all members of a class
    • Emergency copies of works for rehearsal and performance purposes may be made, provided purchased copies will be substituted in due course
    • As with all public domain works, copying is allowed for entire musical works in the public domain
  2. Commercially distributed and copyrighted recordings (LPs, CDs, streaming audio) may be
    • played in a face-to-face classroom setting during the regular course of instruction
    • may be made available via library reserves as an extension of the classroom
    • An entire recording may be presented (“performed”) in a face-to-face teaching situation. Otherwise, only portions of a work are permitted to be copied
    • Presentations viewed through ERes or a course web/server site must be restricted to those registered in the course. The complete contents of a recording may not be digitized, downloaded and redistributed without copyright permission or licensing fees being paid
    • Middlebury College agrees with the the Music Library Association’s Statement on the Digital Transmission of Audio Reserves, excerpted below:

      “Providing adequate access to course materials demands that music libraries provide aural access to sound recordings. In addition, sound recordings of musical works must be made available in their entirety. Just as attempting to comprehend the structure of an architectural plan using only a portion is impossible, music educators cannot effectively reference the internal relationships within a musical work without providing aural access to the complete work. Music educators require the flexibility to select manifestations of the musical works they teach based on educational relevance and instructional objectives.”

      “In light of the above, the Music Library Association supports the creation and transmission of digital audio file copies of copyrighted recordings of musical works for course reserves purposes, under the following conditions:

      Access to such digital copies should be limited to individuals who have been authenticated as being enrolled in the specific course, or formal independent study, for which the copy was designated

      Digital copies should be made only of works that are being taught in the course or independent study

      Digital copies should, to the extent feasible, consist of no more than is necessary to satisfy the classroom pedagogical need

      The digital copy should be made from a lawfully-made original, owned by the library. The library should use lawfully-made material provided by the instructor only after it has made a good faith effort to purchase a commercially available copy, and only if the library retains the original for as long as the digital copy is retained

      The library may store copies of library-owned materials for future re-use, but should remove access to the files at the completion of the course or independent study”

Art Works

Art works may be viewed in a face-to-face classroom setting during the regular course of instruction, and may be made available via library reserves and restricted-access databases (e.g. ArtStor ) as an extension of the classroom for the purpose of research and study.

Art works photocopied, photographed, digitized or otherwise reproduced as part of a course assignment must be restricted to members of the course
Multimedia presentations that are made public and that include artwork must receive copyright permissions/licensing

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives maintains a separate Permissions and Copyright page to provide guidance on the use and publication of its collections, in both paper and digital form.

ALA Copyright Tools


Digital Millennium Copyright Act Agent for Middlebury College

Terry Simpkins

Director, Discovery & Access Services