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Classroom Use Guidelines for Copyrights

Faculty may make and distribute copies (paper or digital) of copyrighted works if the situation meets the following standards:

  • Face-to-face: instructors may display or perform any work related to the curriculum, regardless of the format.
  • Virtual: instructors are limited to portions that may reasonably be used during a class session (generally precludes using more than excerpts of written materials or clips of audiovisual materials without gaining permission), and does not include supplemental materials.
  • In the case of Treadwell Library subscriptions, the license negotiated with the publisher allows distribution.
  • Linking to materials in databases licensed by Treadwell Library is almost always a safe way to “distribute” materials to your students.

    Please note that the appropriate link is one that brings the student to the Treadwell database and the article therein.

    Please do not download full articles to your course within Iware unless you are confident that action falls within Treadwell's negotiated license or the fair use guidelines (check both; these can be mutually exclusive).

    For details about how to create links to Treadwell’s online journals, please see the Institute’s Copyright Compliance Method using Ovid, Treadwell, and Web sites in the Faculty Handbook.

  • The number of copies is in proportion to the number of students or the electronic access is limited to those students registered for the class and to the timeframe of that specific course.
  • The length of the work to be reproduced falls within the “amount and substantiality of the portion used” of the fair use guidelines.
  • The inspiration to use the work and the distribution of the work are in such close proximity as to preclude purchase or permission (beware this one is much tougher to defend since permissions are easier and easier to acquire).
  • The first page of the material includes the following copyright notice: this material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17 U.S. Code).
  • The copying does not negatively affect the market for the work.

When Permission is Required

Faculty will need to request copyright permission if a situation meets any of the following criteria (these criteria are applicable for reserve readings as well, since a library “reserve room” is considered an extension of the classroom):

  • Falls outside the acceptable use provisions in the Treadwell Library subscription license
  • Fails to meet one or more of the fair use factors
  • Has been used in previous semesters by the same instructor, regardless of the amount of time occurring between instances
  • Will be used in more than one course taught by the same instructor
  • Is a workbook, study guide, standardized test, or other consumable publication
  • For virtual classrooms: is of a length that extends beyond an amount that could be reasonably used during a class session
  • Distribution or display extends beyond the limits of a specific class (numbers of students, time period, etc.)

Exceptions: The MGH Institute of Health Professions and/or Treadwell Library has some specific agreements with publishers to use materials more broadly than as defined by the fair use guidelines. For more details on these agreements: licensed permissions [document in process]


This document is a policy statement only and is not intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.

For more information, please contact Jessica Bell, Director of the Office of the Library and Instructional Design, MGH Institute of Health Professions.

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