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Faculty Support

A guide to library services and support for CityU Faculty

Copyright for Faculty


Most countries in the world have their own copyright laws that they follow. CityU of Seattle, while a school with campuses in more than one country, follows the Copyright Law of the United States. This guide contains general guidelines only and should not be considered legal advice. 

Why do I need to worry about copyright? 

Copyright was created to help protect the rights of creators, including writers, artists, and publishers. These rights include being cited properly and receiving money for the product they have created. The CityU of Seattle Library works hard to curate and maintain journal subscriptions, databases, and eBook collections that provide access to items that can be legally used in the physical and digital classroom. As a best practice, faculty should link directly to these resources via their Reading List.

Some faculty may want to share items with their students that are not a part of the library collection and that do not have an open access or otherwise freely shareable license. For sharing these types of items, it is important that faculty understand US copyright law, especially correct application of Fair Use. 

Fair Use

What is Fair Use?

Fair use refers to the unlicensed use of copyrighted material for the purpose of teaching or scholarship (among other things). Several factors must first be considered when determining if an item can be used under the Fair Use doctrine. These factors include--- 

  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. 

In legal procedure, the defendant bears the burden of proving that the copyrighted work was not infringed. Before using or sharing an item with students, please use an evaluation checklist (like the one linked below) to determine if the item qualifies for Fair Use. All factors must be considered and balanced in each individual case.  

How do I determine if the item I’m sharing qualifies for Fair Use? 

You should evaluate EVERY item that you have scanned for a single use. You can find an example evaluation checklist here:

Items that are already found within in the library collection do not need to be evaluated and can be freely shared with students via the Reading List (preferred) or an appropriate CityU link. See:


Frequently Asked Questions

The book chapter or article I want to use isn't in the library, but I have it on my desk. Can I scan and upload it to my course Reading List (Leganto)? 

US copyright law can be difficult to apply to online classrooms and centralized curricula, both of which are used at CityU. While doctrines like Fair Use were written with in-person classrooms in mind, we’ve done our best to illustrate when and how to share items in your online classroom. 

a YES checkmarkThe short-term answer: Yes. For a single quarter you can scan and put something in your course’s Section Reading List in Leganto. Under copyright law, this is considered spontaneous use and you must first evaluate it for Fair Use eligibility.  


a STOP symbolThe long-term answer: No. If the book chapter or article will be used for more than a single quarter, this would be considered systematic reproduction. In these instances, please coordinate with your program manager and a librarian to officially add the item to the course’s Master Reading List in Leganto. We will work on obtaining a copyright compliant version of the item if possible.


I can’t determine if this is Fair Use, who should I contact? 

If you have any questions about copyright, fair use, or uploading resources to your course Reading List, please contact a librarian. 

Requesting Permission for Images


Images are used regularly by program managers, faculty, instructional designers, and subject matter experts when building online courses. But how do you obtain the appropriate permission to use copyrighted images? 

How to Request Permission

Programs are responsible for clearing their own images for use in online courses. Below, you can find a quick guide on how to ask for permission to use an image.

  1. Identify the rights holder. For example, if you want to use images from the course textbook, the rights holder would, in most cases, be the publisher.
  2. Identify the extent of the usage. It is important to let the copyright holder know how you plan to use the image and the extent of that planned use. You'll want to identify things like the type of course, how it is delivered, who has access to it, etc. For example, at CityU, we have online master shells that get copied over quarter to quarter. It is important to note this when requesting usage rights.
  3. Contact the rights holder. Many publishers will have forms that you can use. Others will provide a specific contact email. When contacting the rights holder, make sure to include the following:
    • Name, position, and full contact information
    • Institution name or affiliation 
    • Detailed overview of planned usage

Please Note: Copyright clearance can take as long as eight weeks. When planning and designing your courses, it is important that you give yourself ample time to clear the images you wish to use.


As an alternative to requesting permission for a copyrighted work, consider creating your own images or using free, open source or Creative Commons-licensed materials. You can also try creating AI-generated images, like those created through services like DALL-E. You can find a list of open source image repositories and search tools in our Open Educational Resources List. 

You can also search for Creative Commons-licensed images using Google.

  1. Search for your desired image on
  2. Choose the "Images" tab
  3. Select the "Tools" icon
  4. Choose "Creative Commons Licenses" from the "Usage Rights" drop-down menu

Screenshot of a search for "puppies" using the Google image creative commons search


References and Further Reading