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St. Peter's Prep Libguide: Copyright and Fair Use

Welcome to Copyright, Plagiarism, and Fair Use

This page is designed to help you better understand the rules of copyright, fair use exceptions and point you to open source cites. 

Public Domain Materials

Check out these sites for material in the PUBLIC DOMAIN. 

Project Gutenberg: Over 60,000 free, public domain ebooks from all over the world. You'll find books in many languages from antiquity to the 1920's. Books can be downloaded or read in browser.

US Government Documents: Free access to official government documents.

Pixabay: Millions of free stock images!

Openverse: Search and use images that fall under Creative Commons licenses. 

Google Image Search: Limit your search results to Creative Commons images using the "tools" button below the search bar

10 Things to Know about Copyright

Fair Use

Fair use is a part of copyright law that allows for the reproduction of copyright works for certain limited, educational purposes. There is a four factor test to determine whether or not something falls under "fair use". 

  1. Purpose: The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature, or is for nonprofit education purposes.
  2. Nature: The nature of the copyrighted work.
  3. Amount: The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  4. Effect: The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

Source: The University of Chicago, Copyright Information Center 


Read below to check if your use of copyrighted material would fall under fair use. 

Purpose of the use
  • Materials should be used in class only for the purpose of serving the needs of specified educational programs.
  • Students should not be charged a fee specifically or directly for the materials.
Nature of the work
  • Only those portions of the work relevant to the educational objectives of the course should be used in the classroom.
  • The law of fair use applies more narrowly to highly creative works; accordingly, avoid substantial excerpts from novels, short stories, poetry, modern art images, and other such materials.
  • Instructors should not distribute copies of "consumable" materials such as test forms and workbook pages that are meant to be used and repurchased.
Amount of the Work
  • Materials used in the classroom will generally be limited to brief works or brief excerpts from longer works. Examples: a single chapter from a book, an individual article from a journal, and individual news articles.
  • The amount of the work used should be related directly to the educational objectives of the course.
Effect of the Use on the Market for the Original
  • The instructor should consider whether the copying harms the market or sale of the copyrighted material.
  • Materials used in the class should include a citation to the original source of publication and a form of a copyright notice.
  • Instructor should consider whether materials are reasonably available and affordable for students to purchase - whether as a book, course pack, or other format.

Source: The University of Chicago, Copyright Information Center


Important Definitions:

Copyright:  the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (such as a literary, musical, or artistic work).

Fair use: a legal doctrine that portions of copyrighted materials may be used without permission of the copyright owner provided the use is fair and reasonable, does not substantially impair the value of the materials, and does not curtail the profits reasonably expected by the owner.

Creative Commons Licenses: public licenses that allow for the free distribution of copyrighted work. There are multiple types of licenses, each with their different requirements. 

Public Domain: Items which are not subject to copyright and may be used or appropriated by anyone.

Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary


Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Can I take things off the internet like images and use them for my classes and/or school projects? 

A. It depends. Using a few Google Image photos in a class project or class PowerPoint would fall under fair use. Using one article for a class assignment would also fall under fair use. Making copies of an entire workbook or textbook would be a violation of copyright laws. 

Q. Can I show an entire Netflix/Disney Channel/Amazon Prime movie in class?     
A. No. 
Your user agreements with these companies do not allow you to show their movies and shows, even in a class environment. 

However, there are EXCEPTIONS: Partial use of a show or movie (such as a few clips) falls under the TEACH act amendment to copyright. Netflix allows for one-time educational screenings of certain documentaries by Netflix account holders. Remember, our school library offers you legal access to show movies and documentaries through our subscription to Swank! 

Q. Can I download a book or a movie from the internet to read or watch it?     
A. No. I
t is a violation of copyright to download books or movies from the internet. There is ONE exception: materials under public domain that no longer hold a copyright. These are materials generally published before 1923. 


Q. Is there any place I can access and download new materials that does not violate copyright in any circumstance?     
A. Yes

There are sites that carry materials where the owners of the creations have decided to put their works under creative commons licenses. See more about this in our Creative Commons box. 

Videos on copyright and Fair Use