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Copyright Basics for Educators and Students   Tags: author rights, copyright  

This guide provides basic information about copyright, fair use, and educational exemptions in copyright law. Use the tabs to find additional copyright resources.
Last Updated: Aug 10, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Introduction: How to Use This Guide

This guide, Copyright Basics for Educators and Students, provides basic information about copyright law, fair use,  and educational exemptions in copyright law.

  • To figure out whether you can use a specific work created by someone else, see the box to the right: "Copyright Answers for Instructors & Students: Tools that Help" 
  • For an excellent introduction to copyright law and issues in an educational setting,  start with Purdue University's "Copyright Overview". Then continue to learn more about copyright by going to the "Copyright Tutorials & Help" tab at the top of this guide.
  • To find additional resources about copyright, use the tabs at the top of this guide.

Copyright Answers for Instructors & Students: Tools that Help

To comply with copyright law, follow the 3-step process below.  In each step, you will find links to tools that will help you complete the step.  Steps 1 to 3  will help you determine whether you are dealing with copyrighted material and whether your use of the material will require permission (or not) from the copyright holder.

1. Determine if the material is protected by copyright by using these tools:

  • Is It Protected by Copyright? Public Domain Slider
    Set the slider on the right side of the screen to the publication date of the item. Then read the information in the windows and mouse-over asterisks for more information.
  • Copyright Exceptions: Virtual Instruction  
    Purdue University provides this overview of issues regarding copyright and virtual education -- "when a course is taught either solely online or when components of face-to-face instruction are taught online such as with Blackboard and other course management systems."
  • Streaming of Films for Education Purposes (Issues Brief) 
    Issues brief addresses "the permissibility of the streaming of an entire film to a remote non-classroom location. This paper considers three provisions of the Copyright Act that could permit streaming of this sort: Sections 107, 110(2), and 110(1)."  Prepared by the Library Copyright Alliance (American Library Association, Association of College & Research Libraries, and Association of Research Libraries) and dated 19 February 2010.
  • Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States, by Peter B. Hirtle, Cornell Copyright Information Center, January 2013.
    Summarizes the duration of copyright for various kinds of works (books, sound recordings, etc.).
  • Search Registered Copyrights
    Databases provided by U.S. Copyright Office to search for copyright status of a work.
  • Copyright Renewal Database, Stanford University.
    Search this database to find out if the copyright has been renewed on a specific work published from 1923 to 1963.

2. If not protected by copyright, use it without obtaining permission. If it IS protected by copyright, use the following tools to see if "fair use" or educational exceptions allow the intended use without seeking permission.

  • Exceptions for Instructors eTool
    "Under certain conditions, U.S. Copyright Law provides for the educational use of copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright holder. To find out if your intended use meets the requirements set out in the law, use this free, online tool. This tool can also help you collect information detailing your educational use and provide you with a summary in PDF format."
  • Fair Use Evaluator
    This tool will: "Help you better understand how to determine the "fairness" of a use under the U.S. Copyright Code. Collect, organize & archive the information you might need to support a fair use evaluation. Provide you with a time-stamped, PDF document for your records, which could prove valuable, should you ever be asked by a copyright holder to provide your fair use evaluation and the data you used to support it. Provide access to educational materials, external copyright resources, and contact information for copyright help at local & national levels."

3. If it IS protected by copyright, and "fair use" or educational exceptions do not allow the intended use, you will need to seek permission for use from the copyright holder.

For greater understanding of copyright, use the "Copyright Tutorials and Help" tab, where you'll find a good starting point with Purdue's "Copyright Overview."  See also the tab labeled "More Copyright Resources."


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