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Faculty Resources

Fair Use Checklist

One of the best websites for finding up-to-date information on issues of copyright and fair use is the site produced by the Copyright Information Center at Cornell University. Overseen by Peter B. Hirtle, PhD, who is considered the preeminent scholar on issues of copyright for libraries in the technological age, the CIC created excellent documentation for guiding teachers and academics through the mine field of fair use.

Or, for a more interactive checklist, try the Plagiarism Quiz on this page created by the University of Minnesota »

The 10% Rule

One of the most important considerations in determining fair use is the amount, or brevity, of the use.  The current rule of thumb is that you are within fair use rights to reproduce up to 10% of given work/volume, OR a ONE chapter/article from that work; whichever is less.

The Copyright Act of 1976, which included the 1976 Classroom Guidelines, set out the following minimum amounts:

  • Prose: 
    • A complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words
    • An excerpt of not more than 1,000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less
  • Poetry:
    • A complete poem, if less than 250 words, and if printed on not more than two pages
    • An excerpt of not more than 250 words from a longer poem
  • Other/Combination: 
    • Works which combine language and illustrations - i.e. picture books, graphic novels, etc. - and often fall short of 2,500 words in the entirety, cannot be reproduced in their entirety, or by the strictures applied to prose, poetry, illustrations, etc.
    • No more than two published pages of such a work (text and pictures)
    • A textual excerpt of not more than 10% or the words found in the volume

The more recent ruling in the Georgia State University Case restated these amounts and simplified them to the following:

  • For books of nine or fewer chapters, the threshold is 10% of the total page count.
  • For books of ten chapters or more, the threshold is a single complete chapter. 


As restated in the rulings for the Georgia State Case, for any items used under fair use:

"Access shall be limited only to the students who are enrolled in the course in question, and then only for the term of the course. Students must be reminded of the limitations of the copyright laws and must be prohibited by policy from distributing copies to others. The chapter or other excerpt must fill a demonstrated, legitimate purpose in the course curriculum and must be narrowly tailored to accomplish that purpose"


Articles Shared Via BlackBoard

Posting an item to Blackboard does not exempt an instructor from copyright regulations, however, it does allow educators to "stretch" the provisions of fair use. The Blackboard system does this by limiting access to posted materials to registered members of a course, and by limiting the availability of those materials to the active duration of that course.  

With the understanding that access to course materials on Blackboard is limited by registration, the following table provides guidelines as to how textual materials on BlackBoard should be used:

Articles Shared via Blackboard

Item being shared/posted Allowed/Recommended Not Allowed/Recommended
Article from a library database Direct linking to the article within the database using the database permalink. Always link to the article in a database. Librarians can help faculty find the persistent links to articles so the content is not downloaded and then re-uploaded to Blackboard. Copying and pasting the article directly into a Blackboard content area
Scanned article from a journal, trade publication, or magazine Scans to PDF do not meet the College's requirements for accessibility. Please contact your library liaison to find an accessible version of the article. More than the allotted percents or repeated use over multiple consecutive semesters
Scanned chapter from a book 10% of the total work or a single chapter, whichever is less -- allowed for only one consecutive semester More than the allotted percents or repeated use over multiple consecutive semesters
Web site containing copyrighted material Direct linking to the website Copying and pasting website material directly into a Blackboard content area