Skip to Main Content
Student/Employee Login    Aviso    Directory    Get Help
Navigate to the page: Isothermal Community College Homepage

Copyright Compliance: Copyright Compliance Decision Guide

Information about Copyright and Fair Use as it applies to the educational setting.

Copyright Navigation

Decision Guide Navigation

Unless a work is in the public domain, it is protected by copyright. In order to use a copyrighted work for educational purposes it must fall within one of the exceptions of conditions described in this guide. The guide begins with the simplest forms of compliance to implement and progresses toward the increasingly more complicated forms of compliance to understand and implement, however this order is just a suggestion. Depending on what you already know about the copyrighted work and your intended use it may be more expedient to skip to a particular step first.

1. Linking

Can you link to the content?

If you can find a copy through one of the NC LIVE resources or a legitimate copy on the Web, simply linking to the content may resolve your copyright issues. Many NC LIVE databases provide direct links to articles, eBooks, and other content. Use NC LIVE's Magazine, Journal, or Newspaper Title Search to find out if any NC LIVE database has the publication available in full text. We also have access to a number of eBook resources. Ask library staff for help accessing these.

  • YES — Post the link or provide your students with the URL. Students will need the NC LIVE Password to access NC LIVE content from off-campus computers.

    Lightbulb lit with yellow glow  There have been lawsuits involving linking, but they usually stem from "deep linking" to avoid advertising or framing the linked content in a misleading manner. However, providing a link that simply redirects users to another website is generally not a copyright violation because you are not copying the content. If you have any doubts, contact the owners of the website and ask permission. If you suspect that the owners of the website do not hold the copyright to the content  or do not have permission to use the information do not link to it.

  • NO — Go to 2.

2. Reserves

Can legally acquired copies be placed on Reserve in the library?

Perhaps you or your department has a copy that could be placed on Reserve. Also, check the CMC Consortium Catalog to see if the college library owns a copy. With sufficient lead time the library may be able to order a copy to add to the collection and be placed on Reserve.

  • YES — Bring materials to be placed on Reserve to the Circulation Desk to make the request. Additionally, the library staff will need your name, the course name and number, and what loan period you want. Typical loan periods are: Library use Only, Overnight, 2-Day, 3-Day, and 7-Day
    Lightbulb lit with yellow glow  Generally, students may check it out Reserve items and make one copy for personal use at their own expense without violating copyright.
  • NO — Go to 3.

3. Ask Permission Directly

Will the copyright owner grant permission for your intended use?

Read about Requesting Copyright Permissions Directly and use the Copyright Permission Request Letter Template as a starting point to craft a letter or email to the rightsholder. Be specific about the nature and duration of your intended use.

NOTE: Check the publisher's website first. Many publishers provide contact information for their copyright permissions department or contract with a third party like the Copyright Clearance Center to handle all permissions requests.

  • YES — Make a copy of the permission for the Campus Print Shop, if needed, and for your own documentation. Use the content strictly within the bounds of the permission granted.
    Lightbulb lit with yellow glow  Get permissions in writing, whether by email or letter, and keep them for future reference. It may save time, aggravation, and money in the future.
  • NO — Go to 4.

4. Safe Harbor

Does your intended use fit within any of the "safe harbor" guidelines for fair use?

See the appropriate agreement:

  • YES — Make a copy of the appropriate guide, noting the guidelines under which use is allowed. One copy for the Campus Print Shop, if needed, and another for your own documentation.
    Lightbulb lit with yellow glow  The three guidelines above represent the MINIMUM acceptable standard for duplication and distribution under fair use, not the maximum. They provide a "safe harbor" with regard to fair use, in that any copying or use within these guidelines should be well within the limits of fair use, although other, broader activities may also be within the fair use doctrine.
  • NO — Go to 5.

5. Fair Use

Can the content be used under the Fair Use provision of the copyright law (17 USC § 107)?

Use the Fair Use Checklist to determine if the content can be used under fair use. Reviewing Stanford University Libraries' list of Summaries of Fair Use Cases may help you understand what the courts consider fair use.

  • YES — Print completed copies of the completed Fair Use Checklist to for the Campus Print Shop, if needed, and your own documentation.
    Lightbulb lit with yellow glow  Keep documentation of the fair use analysis for future reference. It may save time, aggravation, and money in the future.
  • NO — Review any steps in this guide that you skipped, particularly Asking Permission Directly, or talk to your dean or director about purchasing rights through the Copyright Clearance Center. If you have exhausted all of the possibilities in this guide you may be in violation of copyright law if you choose to use the material.


This document is not legal advice. It is intended to provide general information regarding copyright and is provided on an "as-is, as available, and with all faults" basis. Consult a qualified attorney for proper legal advice when necessary. Comments, questions, or corrections should be submitted to Charles P. Wiggins, Director of Library Services.

Helpful Information

Chat with a librarian.

Chat loading...

Operated by ChatStaff and LibraryH3lp,
24/7 except federal holidays.

DISCLAIMER: The appearance of a link on this or any other Isothermal Community College Library web page neither constitutes an endorsement or recommendation by the Library.
The presence of a link in any way should not be construed as a suggestion that the site has any relationship with the College. When viewing these pages remember that: