Fair Use

As we transition from traditional to digital classrooms, and content becomes more visible than ever before, it’s important to know when and how to use copyrighted material in your course and to be deliberate when doing so.

Although WashU’s Office of General Counsel is the sole source of legal advice on campus, the Center for Digital Education has created this diagram to help you make an appropriate determination about Fair Use.

In addition to reviewing the diagram, consider the following questions:

  • Can you defend the use of the copyrighted material?
  • Does your use of copyrighted material meet a specific educational purpose? 
  • Is your decision to use the copyrighted material well-informed using the four factors of Fair Use outlined in the diagram, specifically Purpose and Market Effect?
  • Is the copyrighted material attributed to the original source?

For more information, please visit the US government’s website about Fair Use.

Fair Use Diagram

Video Use in Online Courses

Video sharing is a valuable part of communication and education. When considering the easy access offered by video hosting sites, it’s important to remember that videos published online are automatically copyrighted. To help you make informed decisions in the use of copyrighted materials, the CDE recommends asking the following questions:

  • What is the source of the video? Who is the copyright holder?

  • Is it licensed, and what are the restrictions of that license?
  • What are the terms of service for the hosting site?
  • Does Fair Use apply?
  • How should I include the video or media clips in my online course?

  • Could the CDE help me create a video instead?

For more information, please refer to the diagram below and review WashU’s streaming reserves policy.

Free Images & Videos

If you feel uncertain about using copyrighted images, the CDE team recommends replacing them with free stock photos. Here is a list of popular sites for free images, vectors and videos:

Copyright Permission

When material cannot be shared under Fair Use, the CDE advises seeking permission where necessary and possible. Here are a few things to consider:

If you’re interested in additional resources, please visit WashU’s faculty guidance for copyright page.