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Copyright and Author Rights

This guide is designed to provide information about copyright and fair use in an academic setting, and to provide guidance on finding and using materials in in-person, online, and hybrid courses.

Just Guidelines!

This page contains guidelines for use of copyrighted materials in the classroom. There are no hard and fast rules to Fair Use. It is always recommended that you conduct your own Fair Use evaluation

For more on Fair Use, take a look at this checklist.


Frequently Asked Questions


Q: Can I use copyrighted material in a course pack?

     A: If you use the materials in essentially the same way the author intended, and use only limited amounts of the material, then this type of use can fall under Fair Use. To reduce the amount of copyrighted material used, and the need to ask for author permission use these tips: 1. Use small amounts of the total and attribute any uses to the original author, 2. Limit access to only appropriate audiences (such as students), 3. Terminate access when access is no longer needed, such as at the end of the semester. Keep in mind that copies may be made only from legally acquired originals. For more information on integrating resources into your class, see the University Libraries WebCampus Toolkit.

Q: Can I give a handout I found online to my students?

     A: Photocopies (or printed versions of online documents) can be used in the classroom, with some guidelines. Instructors should try to locate items using the University Libraries databases first, but if necessary, there are guidelines which can be found in Circular 21, produced by the US Copyright Office. In general, multiple copies may be made by or for the instructor, given that: A. The copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity as defined in Circular 21, B. Meets the cumulative effect test as defined in Circular 21, and C. Each copy includes a notice of copyright. 

Q: Can I show a video, such as from YouTube, I found online in a class?

     A: In many cases, YouTube videos can be showed in the classroom or as part of remote instruction, as long as they are being used for instruction. However, some videos may have copyright and usage disclaimers in the Description of the video, so faculty and students should read the entire Description prior to using a video from this site. For using videos from other sites, the 10% or 3 minutes (whichever is less) rule applies, though larger portions may be used if its use follows Fair Use guidelines. UNLV has obtained permissions from some rights holders for streaming videos, which can be accessed in our database here.

Q: Can I show a film or movie in class?

     A: To show an entire film in class, during a lecture or presentation (including streaming online), permission should be obtained from the rights holder. UNLV has obtained permissions from some rights holders, which can be accessed in our database here. See the section on Permissions below for more information on how to obtain permission for other films. However, there are some tips for using films, particularly in an online classroom: 1. Link to the video, rather than making a copy or embedding it, 2. If showing a film, do not use any more than the amount needed to serve your purpose. 3. Avoid copying from materials created and marketed primarily for use in courses similar to yours, 4. Make sure the content serves a pedagogical purpose. 5. Place the video in the context of the course and limit access to students currently enrolled only. 6. Provide attributions to known copyright owners. For more tips, and useful scenarios for sharing videos, check out this guide.

Q: Can I use materials I found online in my lecture, in an assignment, or as part of a handout I made?

     A: Students and faculty that wish to use others' works in a creative or transformative way, may do so as long as they do not use more than needed. Other ways small parts of copyrighted materials (such as images, text, etc.) can be used include: curriculum materials, remote (online) instruction, examinations, student materials, or professional symposia.

Q: Can I play music in class, or can students incorporate music into an assignment/project?

     A: Up to 10%, or 3 minutes, whichever is less, can be used in an educational setting for music, lyrics, or music videos. Larger use may be allowed, including creating compilations, as long as it passes the Fair Use guidelines.

Q: Can I use materials from the UNLV University Libraries catalog in my class?

     A: Generally, items found using the University Libraries catalog have been licensed by UNLV for use in an educational setting, whether as part of a student's assignment or as an instructor in a classroom. There are always exceptions, however, depending on specific licensing agreements. To be certain, you can use the University Libraries WebCampus Toolkit, review Fair Use guidelines, and/or check with your Library Liaison.


Special Thanks to Butler University and University of Rhode Island for their robust guides that informed these FAQs. Content used under CC-BY license.

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