Using Copyrighted Materials

Acceptable Use Policy

Everyone at Cal Poly Pomona must adhere to our Acceptable Use Policy when dealing with copyrighted materials.

Fair Use

Fair Use is an exemption to the exclusive rights a creator has to his or her work. Criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright under Fair Use.

There are four factors to use in considering whether or not your use of material falls under Fair Use:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
Source: U.S. Code Title 17 Ch.1 section 107

There are no hard and fast interpretations of the four factors. In practice the courts have not favored any one factor over another. Each factor can be considered a continuum of practices that range from the less fair to the more fair.

  1. It is more fair if the purpose of the use is non-profit and educational
  2. It is more fair if the work is published vs. unpublished
  3. It is more fair if you use a small amount of the work than a large amount
  4. It is more fair if the use has no effect on the market of the work than it leads to a loss of sales

It is recommended that you use a Fair Use Checklist prior to using materials under this exemption to copyright law.


The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH) was created to address deficiencies in the copyright law regarding the transmission of digital materials in distance education.  It allows educators to use copyrighted digital materials without having to secure permissions. The law requires, however,  that instructors and their institutions adhere to strict rules regarding how that material is used.    ALL requirements must be satisfied to comply with the law.

It is helpful to you use a TEACH checklist prior to using materials under this exemption. 

Instructors must:

  • Acquire materials legally avoiding commercial or pirated works
  • Instruct at an accredited and non-profit institution
  • Mediate the instruction   – the materials used need to be an integral part of the class. 
  • Limit use of works to an amount and duration comparable to what would be displayed or performed in a live physical classroom setting.
  • Limit the use of dramatic literary works to small, discrete portions unless the work must be shown in its entirety to meet instructional goals
  • Limit access to enrolled students only
  • Limit access to the duration of the course
  • Limit the proportion of works used when converting from analog to digital formats

Institution must:

  • Create institution-wide copyright policies
  • Provide educational resources to campus that accurately describe copyright rights and responsibilities
  • Provide copyright notice to students using copyrighted materials
  • Restrict access to enrolled students; not to the general browsing public
  • Apply reasonable technological restrictions to restrict content by audience, time, etc.
  • Not interfere with any vendor-supplied technological protection measures on the materials
  • Limit retention of materials

Seeking Permissions

Gaining permission to use copyrighted works is an option when Fair Use and the TEACH Act do not apply to a situation.  Copyright owners are often very generous with permissions for the educational use of their materials.