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Copyright and Fair Use

Basics of copyright and fair use for faculty and students

Placing Materials on Reserve in the RVC Library

The RVC Library honors requests from faculty to place course related items on reserve that are in compliance with US Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107) and the fair use guidelines.

Faculty can notify the library about books, articles, or audiovisual items to place on reserve via the Reserve Request Form or items may be submitted at the library Circulation Desk.  Please contact the RVC Library circulation dept. (ext. 4615) with questions regarding reserves.

As a safeguard against copyright infringement the library stipulates:

  • Materials are kept in the Reserve Room behind the Circulation Desk and are only available for use by students in the designated section(s) of the course.
  • Only one copy of a given item is allowed on reserve unless sufficient need for multiple copies is demonstrated.
  • All copies placed on reserve must be legally made and acquired copies.  They must be commercially produced copies or the instructor must show that he/she has permission from the copyright holder to make copies.

Review the "Common Scenarios" page for more guidelines on the fair use and course reserves.

Eagle and Video Content

Rock Valley College's course management system Eagle (Canvas) is "TEACH Act compliant" since it is possible to make video content streaming only.   To do this, create a content page and then follow the instructions here.  Remember that it is always better to link to content on the Web if possible rather than providing a copy of it to students.  Providing a link in Eagle is the best way to circumvent potential copyright infringement issues.

RVC Copyright Assistance

Rock Valley College does not have an official copyright office but there are resource people who can provide helpful information to members of the RVC community who use copyrighted materials in educational and research activities.  If you have questions or need advice please contact:

Copying for Classroom Use

Copying of copyrighted materials for student learning and research use without written permission may occur in the following instances:

Single copying for instructors

Single copies may be made of any of the following by or for instructors at their individual request for scholarly research or use in teaching or preparation to teach a class:

  • One chapter from a book;
  • An article from a periodical, journal, or newspaper;
  • A short story, short essay, or short poem, whether or not from a collective work;
  • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper.

Multiple copies for student learning use

Multiple copies (not to exceed more than one copy per student in a course) may be made by or for the instructor giving the course for student learning use or discussion; provided that the following three criteria are met:

  • The copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity (as defined below).
  • The copying meets the cumulative effect test (as defined below).
  • Each copy includes a notice of copyright. An example is "this material may be protected by Copyright law (title 17, US Code)."


Brevity: Either a complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words, (usually varies 3-8 pages depending on size of page and type) or an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1,000 words or 10 percent of the work, whichever is greater.

Spontaneity: The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual instructor, and the inspiration and decision to use the work and the moment of its use for maximum teaching effectiveness are so close in time that it would be unreasonable to expect a timely reply to a request for permission. Repeated use of the same material from semester to semester usually does not qualify as fair use.

Cumulative effect: Copying of the material is for only one course.

Obtaining Permission

Permission from copyright holders is sometimes needed when using copyrighted material. You need to obtain permission when you use a work in a way that infringes on the exclusive rights granted to a copyright holder (i.e. outside the boundaries of fair use).

Steps that need to be followed to obtain permission to use copyrighted material:

  1. Determine if permission is needed for the work you want to use.
  2. Identify the copyright holder or agent. 
  3. Send written request for permission to use (view Sample Letter). Remember to give yourself ample lead time, as the process for obtaining permissions can take months. Decide if you are willing to pay a licensing fee/royalty.
  4. If the copyright holder can't be located or is unresponsive (or if you are unwilling to pay a license fee), be prepared to use a limited amount that qualifies for fair use, or use alternative material.

For more information, visit the Copyright Crash Course's Getting Permission page.