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Copyright and Fair Use: Myths and Legends

A primer on the U.S. Copyright Act and Fair Use.

Copyright Questions?

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This guide provides a basic primer about copyright and fair use for instruction.  If you have specific questions, please e-mail


These pages were created to provide basic copyright information and are not a substitute for legal advice.

Copywrongs. . .

Amendments to the U.S. Copyright Act and the evolution of the law through litigation produce some interesting ideas about copyright law.  Here are some common myths about copyright and instruction.


If the site is password protected, I can post anything online.

Run all materials through a Fair Use analysis – even for password protected websites and request permission when appropriate.


Renting a video to show in class is not considered a Fair Use.

Instructors may rent or purchase legal copies of video to be used for classroom showings or instructional purposes.


I bought it, so I own it.

Purchasing content does not mean that you own the rights to it – you only own a reproduction of the work and copyright laws still apply.  Use these materials for instruction in accordance with Fair Use guidelines or request permission from the rights holder.

Want more?

See Patricia Aufderheide’s Myths About Fair Use for academics.