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Copyright: FAQ

This guide will provide resources on the topic of copyright.

Quick Reference Guide: Frequently Asked Questions

Here's a quick list of questions and answers regarding copyright to consider before adding materials to your courses.

1. Can I use this article for my class without paying?

To determine whether you may use any work, the first step is to consider whether any contractual terms limit your ability to do so. As a general rule, you must abide by any terms that were agreed to in order to gain access to a copy of the work. If you are not limited by contractual terms, consider whether the work is in the public domain. If not, then consider whether there is an existing license (such as a Creative Commons license) that would permit your use or whether a user’s right applies. Fair use is the broadest user’s right and a good place to start. Go to the Fair Use” tab of this guide for more information on making a fair use determination; information on Creative Commons can be found on the “Copyright & Licensing” tab. Information on public domain can be found on the "Free to Use Resources" tab.

2. How much of this movie can I show in class?

Many of the user’s rights, including fair use, apply to some uses of video in teaching. Go to the “Fair Use” tab  of this guide for more information on making a fair use determination. Remember there are no general limits on the amount of a work that you can use under fair use – in some cases, it is fair to use an entire work; in other cases, it is not fair to use even a small portion of the work. 

3. Can my institution show this movie on campus?

Unless your institution has a public performance site license, you will need to secure the permission of the copyright holder to screen a movie publicly on campus. This type of educational use doesn't meet all of the required criteria under the TEACH Act; go to the “TEACH Act” for more information. 

4. Can I use graphics found on the Internet for free?

A simple Google Images search will often return lots of copyrighted images that we don’t have permission to use. A watermark (i.e., logo, lines, or anything else superimposed over the image) usually means you do not currently have the rights to use that image. It is often safest to use graphics and images found on Creative Commons and public domain media. Information on Creative Commons can be found on the “Copyright & Licensing” tab. Information on public domain can be found on the "Free to Use Resources" tab.

5. May I make copies of works and distribute them to my class?

Section 107 of U.S. copyright law explicitly authorizes the making of multiple copies of copyrighted works for classroom use, provided the purpose of the copies, the nature of the original work, the amount and substantiality of the portion of the work being copied, and the effect on the potential market for or value of the original work are all in keeping with the principles of fair use. Go to the “Fair Use” tab of this guide for more information on making a fair use determination. 

6. What kind of statement should I include in my Blackboard class when I post copyrighted materials?

Here is an example you can use and modify:

All readings posted on Blackboard are intended for use in this class only. Copying, e-mailing, or posting these materials online for any other purpose without the copyright holder’s express written consent may be prohibited by law. For more information about copyright, including information about how to obtain permission to use a copyrighted work, please see the U.S. Copyright Office’s Frequently Asked Questions page:

7. Are there any “best practices” that I should follow when providing students with resources covered by copyright laws?

Yes. Here are five tips. First, assume all works are covered by copyright if it was created by someone other than you and it is not in the public domain. Second, instead of copying, downloading, uploading, and/or posting the resource, post a link instead; generally, this is safer – particularly if you are linking to library resources. Third, provide complete citations whenever you copy, link, or post something that contains copyrighted information. Fourth, make sure you limit access to only students in the class if you do post copyrighted resources (i.e., inside a password-protected course site like Blackboard); avoid posting on the open web. Fifth, be aware that the TEACH Act provides for some specific uses of copyrighted resources in online course environments; go to the “TEACH Act” for more information.