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Penfield Library supports best practices in following copyright law. We can't supply legal advice, but we can direct you to resources that may help you with copyright compliance.

We have created several guides to help you understand and apply copyright best practices. They include:

Introduction to Fair Use

As you think about using copyrighted materials, fair use may apply. Section 107 of the Copyright Act defines fair use as follows:

"...[T]he fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:
  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • the nature of the copyrighted work;
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;
  • and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work."

When using materials under fair use, keep in mind that its boundaries are not clearly defined. This means that depending on how a copyrighted work is used, each of these four factors may weigh differently in the court of law.

Digitizing media for online learning environments is treated differently than digitizing for use in face-to-face learning environments, since digitized content could be shared in online environments beyond the learning management system. Therefore, you will want to treat Fair Use with caution, particularly in online courses. Our Copyright Guide contains links to fair use evaluators to assist you in determining the fair use of materials.

Penfield Library's Media Collection

Penfield Library does not support the digitization or conversion of its physical media collection for personal or instructional use without written permission by the media's copyright holder. It is up to the faculty/staff member to acquire written permission from the copyright holder. Before the request for assistance can be fulfilled by Penfield Library, this written permission must be presented to Chris Hebblethwaite (

See the "Obtaining Copyright" tab of this page for more information on how to aquire written permission from the copyright holder.

Media Not Owned by Penfield Library

Penfield Library does not digitize or convert personal or departmental media or media owned by another library. Given copyright law, you are still responsible for securing written copyright permission to digitize or convert the media.

If you are unable to obtain permission to use the material, consider the following:

  • Check with your department to see if they can purchase a streaming media option.
  • Contact a Librarian Collection Development Liaison to discuss alternatives.
  • Check Penfield Library’s collection of streaming video databases.
  • Check the availability of the media on the web through public media streaming services. Use caution when using free media streaming services, as they may not always follow copyright law.

Additional Considerations

Media recorded from an on-air broadcast may not be converted. Copyright law states that this type of media may only be kept for 45 days, and used once in a class during that time.

Motion pictures on DVD (as defined in 17 U.S. Code§101) that are legally acquired and protected by the Content Scrambling System may be converted under certain circumstances (17 U.S. Code§1201). Only short portions of the video are allowed to be used for the purpose of criticism or commenting. Screen capture is the preferred non-circumventing conversion technique. If screen capture does not produce video of sufficient quality for the purpose of criticism or comment, then other circumventing technologies may be employed.

Circumvention of the Content Scrambling System is only allowed for noncommercial videos, documentary videos, and nonfiction multimedia ebooks offering film analysis, and for educational purposes in film studies or other courses requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts by university faculty and students.

Here are ideas for starting the process of obtaining copyright clearance:

  • Try contacting the publisher of the media. Publisher websites will often list the contact information including phone numbers and email addresses needed to ask about copyright.
  • If the copyright owner cannot be found, you are not exempt from copyright law. You can use the fair use evaluator found on the Copyright Guide. You may also want to consider using different materials.
  • In addition, the Copyright Clearance Center may be contacted to see if anyone lays claim to the copyright. If so, written permission from them should be sought.