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Swarthmore College Copyright Policy

It is the policy of Swarthmore College to comply with all relevant sections of United States Copyright Law. Our policies assume respect for the rights of copyright holders, tempered by the recognition that the educational process dictates a flexible and good faith interpretation of the "fair use" doctrine.

There are three major exceptions to copyright law that permit instructors to use copyrighted material in their classrooms without permission. Applying these exceptions properly is fact-specific and dependent on a wide variety of particular factors; each circumstance needs to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Exceptions for Teaching

There are three exceptions to the exclusive rights in copyright that help serve educational needs:

Face-to-face teaching – Section 110(1)

  • Allows performance or display of protected material in a face-to-face teaching setting.
  • Must be in a classroom and at a non-profit educational institution.
  • Does NOT allow copying. This is an exception to the exclusive rights of performance and display, but not the right of reproduction.
  • Copying may still be allowed by fair use, however.
  • Performance and display in the classroom must employ a legally obtained copy – no “bootleg” copy is eligible for this exception, but borrowed copies are OK.

“Transmission” to registered students – Section 110(2), a.k.a. The TEACH Act

  • Allows digital copies in course management systems under a specific set of conditions.
  • Text and images may be transmitted (displayed) in amounts comparable to in-class teaching.
  • Music and video may be used in portions; entire songs may be used if “non-dramatic.”
  • Access must be restricted to students registered in the course, and notice that the material is protected must be given.
  • Technological measures to prevent the material from being retained after the course is over or copied to others are required. Streaming of music and video is a good way to meet this requirement.

Fair Use – Section 107

  • A flexible exception that allows socially valuable uses of copyrighted material, including educational copying.
  • Fair use applies in many situations, but its application is never certain. A good faith decision in each situation is important.
  • Four factors are balanced to determine fair use:
    • The purpose of the use should be for non-profit education. If the use adds to the original in some creative way (like commenting on a poem or making a parody), the fair use argument is stronger.
    • Factual material is more susceptible to fair use; creative work like music and art gets stronger protection. Unpublished work also gets more protection
    • Use only that amount of the original work that is necessary to accomplish the educational purpose.
    • Avoid uses that substitute for purchasing available copies; damaging the market for the original counts heavily against fair use.

Adopted from Duke Scholarworks "Copyright Exceptions for Teaching"  Creative Commons License​​​​​

Guidelines for Teaching with Copyrighted Resources

These guidelines represent the College's interpretation of fair use, with the expectation that most uses of copyrighted materials on campus will fall within these guidelines. If you have questions regarding whether your use is a fair use, reach out to Encouraging widespread reproduction and distribution of copyrighted materials is not considered fair use (e.g. scanning an entire book for classroom use).

Course Readings
Faculty may provide supplementary materials or course readings by:

  • Making materials available on password protected platforms (e.g. Moodle) 
  • Placing items on reserve in the library
  • Distributing multiple printed copies for classroom use

    All copies must bear copyright information (e.g. the name of the original work, the name of the copyright holder, terms and conditions for use of the work, and indication that further duplication is regulated by U.S. Copyright Law).

Video and Audio Reserves
The Library may provide streaming video and audio as an alternative to placing items on Reserve. The Libraries will provide streaming services if:

Visual + Multimedia Materials
Faculty may use copyrighted works to develop curricular materials if access is limited to students enrolled in those classes and further duplication is prevented. Student assignments may also incorporate copyrighted materials, subject to these terms.

Copyright Advisory Services

For assistance with copyright questions, please email We can consult on topics such as:

  • Image reuse
  • Fair use assessment
  • Public domain investigation
  • Publisher agreements
  • Open licenses such as Creative Commons

Please note that these services do not constitute legal advice. For legal issues, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

The following outlines the policies and procedures that the College will follow to comply with the DMCA. These policies apply to anyone who uses the College's internet or server space, including faculty, staff, students, and visitors to the campus (who are all defined as "subscribers" under the DMCA).

What is the scope of the College's liability?

As an online service provider (OSP), the College is potentially liable for monetary damages (plus attorney's fees) if any of its subscribers provide access to material that infringes on the copyrights of others. Copyright owners are entitled to recover either their actual damages, or statutory damages that can be as high as $150,000 per work. These penalties may also be assessed against individual subscribers.

The DMCA does not require that the College police the Internet activities of its faculty, staff, or students. It requires that the College respond in specified ways when notified that infringing activity is occurring, in order to avoid institutional liability.

The Director of Information Technology Services (ITS) is the designated agent registered with the U.S. Copyright Office for the purpose of receiving notifications under the DMCA. For more information regarding the limitation of the College's liability and DMCA-related policies and procedures, please refer to ITS's copyright page.