Fair Use & Copyright at DU Libraries

Under U.S. copyright law, the creator of an original work owns the copyright to their work as soon as it takes on a tangible form (17 U.S. Code § 102). A creator has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, adapt, perform, and display their work (17 U.S. Code § 106). Copyright law includes some exceptions to these exclusive rights, including fair use (17 U.S. Code § 107).

DU Libraries' collections must be used in accordance with license agreements between the Libraries and resource vendors, as the Libraries complies with copyright laws and fair use guidelines. In addition, DU community members who place items in Canvas or on reserve must make appropriate arrangements to do so.

Fair Use Guidelines

Per Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act, four factors are considered in determining whether a work's use is fair:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature, or is for non-profit educational use
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

Fair Use Policies for Reserves


  • The Libraries will post one or two chapters of a book on electronic reserves.
  • If the percentage to be used of a title requested is over 20%, the Libraries will purchase an e-book version of the title and place the title on e-reserves.
  • If an e-book version of a title is not available, students will be able to check out the title's print version from physical reserves.
  • If you're using a larger portion of a book, work with the DU Bookstore so that students can purchase the book.

Journal Articles

  • Articles in journals licensed by the Libraries will be linked to online.
  • If an online version of an article is unavailable, a scanned copy will be posted on e-reserves.
  • One article from an issue of a journal is fair use, but two articles require a permission request and copyright fees, which the Libraries covers.
  • For more than two articles from a single issue, the Libraries will place the print volume on physical reserves or ask that you work with the DU Bookstore to create a course-pack for purchase.

Consecutive Use

  • Use of the same readings for the same courses in consecutive quarters requires the Libraries to process readings for copyright permissions to post on e-reserves, and the Libraries covers permission fees.
  • Consecutive quarter postings can become very expensive. The Libraries recommend that rather than placing materials on e-reserve for two or more quarters in a row, you work with the DU Bookstore to create course-packs for purchase.

Video/Audio Content

  • Using Copyrighted Materials in Canvas
  • To provide video and/or audio content in Canvas, faculty must use licensed streaming services from the Libraries (e.g. Kanopy, Swank Digital Campus, Alexander Street).
  • When in doubt, use the least amount that meets the educational need. If material converted from a DVD, VHS, or CD is to be used, identify the portion that is relevant to lesson objectives and create a clip of that portion for students to listen to or view.
  • In the case of converted DVD, VHS, CD, etc., acquire permission from the copyright holder or certify that the material qualifies as Fair Use.
  • For additional information, review the Libraries Guide to Using Media in Courses.