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Copyright & Fair Use: Blackboard

Linking vs. Posting PDFs

Items from library databases are subject to license agreements that specify how they can be used, including whether is is permitted to post PDFs of materials on Blackboard.

Most of these items can be made accessible by linking and it is a much better option for providing access to that material while staying within copyright and license terms. Learn how to provide permalinks (persistent links) in the section below.

If there is no license agreement specifying how the material is used, the U.S. Copyright Act is applied. The law permits posting a PDF in the following situations:

  • the work is in the public domain
  • you have permission from the copyright owner
  • your use qualifies as fair use


When in doubt, link out.


A persistent link, or permalink, is a permanent URL to a journal or article within a database, or electronic resource. The link is static and unchanging unlike the link from your internet browser. The permalink will continue to take students to the full-text article in the library database, unless the library has not renewed the database subscription. If this occurs, contact the library Acquisitions Department for further information. 

To ensure access for off-campus users, all permalinks should include the library's proxy URL in the first segment of the link:

Many of our databases provide you with a permalink, which should look like this:

Some databases do no provide the proxy URL in their link, so you will have to paste it in front of the permalink. If you need more information on permalinks, please contact Caitlin Rookey (x4815)

Repeated use on Blackboard

Multiple uses of the same document weigh against fair use. If repeated use is expected, faculty and staff are advised to contact the rights holder and seek out the appropriate permission. Sample letters can be found on the Permission page.

Please note that obtaining publisher permissions is a process that can take up to four weeks. Therefore, faculty and staff are encouraged to plan accordingly.

TEACH Act & Distance Learning

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002 (TEACH Act) facilitates and enables the performance and display of copyrighted materials for distance education by non-profit universities  that meet the act's qualifying requirements

Audio & Video Tips

There are no specifications on how much of a copyrighted materials can be used to fall within fair use. The Conference on Fair Use in 1997 set guidelines that have been interpreted by many institutions to develop educational use standards.

Please be advised that courts are not bound to these standards and the U.S. Copyright Law does not contain these standards. 

Video: 10% or three minutes, whichever is less

Music Lyrics, or Music Video: 10% or 30 seconds with no change to character, work, or melody

If you need to use a larger portion or the entire work you must evaluate for fair use, request permission, and contact the library. In some cases the library can purchase the material for a reasonable fee.

Streaming Full Length Films

Want to Reuse this Content?

 This content is under a Creative Commons License that requires attribution to Texas Wesleyan University.