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SOM Copyright Resources: Faculty Guidelines

Copying For Classroom Use

Digital Copies

The direct use of copyrighted materials (eg: posting a PDF of an article) in online modules such as Blackboard requires that course creators cite the source of the work, do not use the course module for commercial purposes, and obtain permission if they would like to use the material for more than one semester, class, or course.

When possible always include a citation and a link to the material instead of a full text copy. This allows you to use the same work for multiple semesters without violating copyright laws. If you would like assistance with creating citations and persistent links to your course materials please contact the library.

Physical Copies

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

Single copying for teachers

Single copies may be made of any of the following by or for teachers 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 teacher 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 teacher, and the inspiration and decision to use the work.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.

Cumulative effect: Copying of the material is for only one course in the school in which the copies are made.


Fair use does allow you to use images in digital format for internal online courses and for posting on Blackboard. The same issues apply: how many images are taken from one source, how often are the same images are used, and whether proper attribution is given. Images used in curriculum materials must include a citation.

Most publishers will not permit the use of images or other materials for courses that can be accessed by the general public. Access to the materials needs to be restricted to students registered for the course or curriculum.

Citing Images:

For images that list an author and/or title:

For images that do not list an author or title:

For more information on citing images and other resources in the NLM format check out Citing Medicine, 2nd edition The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers

Best Practices for Including Images in Course Materials:

  • Determine if the use is educational fair use.
  • Check to see what image databases may be available through the Health Sciences Library; we have listed subscription and free image resources on our Images & Videos guide
  • If you find an image on the Internet, ask permission to use it, especially for repeated use.
  • Link to the images on the Internet and do not download them.
  • Use only one or two images from a single source for presentations.
  • Explore some of the new databases designed for faculty to share images and multimedia.
  • Seek permission or pay the fees to use images from large commercial image sets.
  • Do not use images on Websites or online materials without seeking permission from the copyright holder.


Torres, A. Copyright and Fair Use at Dibner Library [Internet]. Brooklyn, NY: NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering [cited 2015 Aug 19]. Available from

Thibodeau, P. Copyright [Internet]. Durham, NC: Duke University Medical Center Library & Archives; 2015 [cited 2015 Aug 19]. Available from:

Patrias K, author; Wendling D, editor. Citing medicine: the NLM style guide for authors, editors, and publishers [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2007-. Available from:


Q: May I send members of a journal club a copy of a journal article?

Electronic Articles

If the article is from a library or personally “subscribed” journal, look at the journal or publisher web site for conditions of use.  Typically you will find this under “Terms and Conditions.”  The publisher will state if an electronic copy of the article may be sent to club participants or if the article URL (persistent link) can be sent electronically or posted on a password protected website i.e. Blackboard . 

For example, Wiley allows distribution of digital (PDF) copies for journal clubs.  However the American Medical Association only allows print copies to be shared and you may not store, reproduce, or share copies in digital form.  Each publisher has its own terms & conditions of use.

Print Articles

A photocopy of an article found in a print journal may be given to each member as these copies are considered “one copy per student” under Fair Use and becomes the personal property of the member.  Scanning a print article and sending it electronically to members is considered “making multiple copies” and is not allowed under fair use.


Q: May I scan a chapter of a book or a journal aricle and place it on Blackboard for my students?

Applying "Fair Use" guidelines allows you to scan a book chapter, selected pages from a book, or a single journal article from an issue for a class.  However, it is important to follow the recommended guidelines below:

  • The purpose is for educational use (teaching)
  • Material scanned is published and relevant to the course
  • Less is best.  Copying only 10% or a single chapter of a book or a single article from a journal issue is a good rule of thumb. 
  • Attach a copyright cover sheet to the scanned document
  • Place the scanned document on Blackboard so only students taking the course have access to the reading
  • Remove the scanned document at the end of the course

Q: May I distribute copies of journal articles or a book chapter to my students?

In print:

  • A single, print copy of a journal article or a book chapter may be distributed to each student in a face to face class environment for one semester.  Subsequent copying for another class or another semester requires permission from the copyright holder.

Electronic Access including Blackboard:

  • A digitized copy of a single journal article or a single book chapter may be posted on a secure website such as Blackboard for one semester or a single class.  Access to the article is limited to students enrolled in the course.  Subsequent copying for another class or another semester requires permission from the copyright holder. If the Library subscribes to the online journal you may provide a persistent link to the article.  
  • Sending a PDF of journal articles to students via email is discouraged.  It is too easy for students to forward the article to unauthorized users thereby compromising the license agreement with the publisher of the journal.

Q: May I incorporate graphics or images (pictures, cartoons, tables, charts, graphs) into presentations, i.e. PowerPoint presentations?

Images or graphics found in printed materials may be scanned or copied and placed into a presentation.  When the presentation is done in a face to face situation, you do not need to obtain publisher permission.  However, distributing copies of the image or graphic will require obtaining permission when any of the following apply:

  • Using multiple images from a single source
  • The image or graphic was found in a licensed resource such as an electronic library resource.  Review the “Terms of Use” found on the publishers website to determine if written permission is required.
  • Re-using the image or graphic for multiple semesters
  • Re-publishing in another publication
  • Placing the presentation onto an electronic storage device i.e. flash drive  or printing for re-distribution



Helms, M., Brown, H. Copyright [Internet]. Omaha, NE: University of Nebraska Medical Center; 2015 [cited 2015 Aug 19]. Available from:

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