Fair Use

Copyright and Fair Use considerations for course readings

Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright law provides for the use of copyrighted materials under certain circumstances defined as “fair use.” The law lists four “factors” to use to help determine if a particular use can be considered fair use under the law. Instructors should weigh these factors for each item to be used as a course reading. For library course reserve materials, library staff can help instructors with explanatory materials and examples. Ultimately, each instructor must make decisions in the context of the course being taught and the materials under consideration.

Instructors may also want to seek the advice of the University’s Office of the General Counsel. Other sections of the U.S. Copyright law, such as the 2002 TEACH Act also apply to library or educational use. For further information, contact the General Counsel’s office at 335-3696 or visit their web site at https://gencounsel.uiowa.edu. Also visit the Copyright Information page from the Main Library.

Applying the Four Factors Test

When evaluating materials using the four factors, they must be used in combination – not individually.

  1. Purpose of the use — Use at a non-profit educational institution and use for teaching, research or scholarship weigh in favor of fair use.
  2. Nature of the work — Published works of fiction and non fiction are generally considered fair use.
  3. Amount used — Use of a small portion of the entire work; use of a portion that is not central to the entire work; or use of an amount that is appropriate for educational use generally will be considered a fair use application.
  4. The effect of the use on market value — Generally there should be no significant impact on the current or potential market value for the original. Restricting access to items on reserve or accessed via a course management web site to the University community or members of the class will weigh in favor of fair use.


Guidelines for Multiple Copying for Classroom Use

The stated purpose of the classroom guidelines is to state the minimum and not the maximum standards of educational fair use under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright law. Multiple copies (not to exceed more than one copy per student in a course) may be made by or for the instructor for classroom use or discussion if the following guidelines are followed.

  1. The copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity.
  2. It meets the cumulative effect test.
  3. Each copy includes a notice of copyright.

Copying isn’t used to create, replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works.


Distance Education

In 2002, Congress passed the TEACH Act to provide copyright guidance for distance education courses. Unlike the provisions of Section 107, the responsibility for implementing the TEACH Act is shared between the instructor and the University. Because of detailed conditions and limitations on permitted activities, some desirable educational uses of copyrighted materials may appear to be barred under the terms of the TEACH Act. Distance educators are encouraged to explore the TEACH Act, but to also be aware of the alternatives for course related materials described here including securing permission from the copyright owners for the use of materials as desired.

Below is a chart describing several ways that course related materials can be made available to students including library course reserve and course management software.

Course Related Materials Chart

Library Course Reserve Both print and electronic materials The University of Iowa Libraries provide print and electronic reserve services to faculty.  Contact the Hardin Library (lib-hardin-circ@uiowa.edu; 319/335-9150) or visit the Reserve Collection page for further details on putting materials on reserve.
ICON, WebCT, Blackboard, etc. Electronic materials Contact Academic Technologies for further information on using course management software.



Course Packs Prepared by the University Printing Department or a commercial copier, Kinkos, etc. Contact the University Printing Services for information on their Docutek services.



Note: Commercial course packs cannot be placed on library course reserve.

Handouts Books, periodicals, personal documents, etc. Classroom handouts such as copies of articles, chapters or short sections of books can be given to students in class under the Guidelines on Multiple Copying for Classroom Use (a congressional report included in Section 107). A copy of the entire document is available at http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ21.pdf

Rev 11/04