Copyright Tips for Faculty and Students
Faculty and students frequently have questions about copyright and how it affects teaching and learning. There are many resources available to help faculty and students remain compliant with copyright laws. Copyright law provides certain rights to the copyright holder and it is illegal to infringe upon these rights. These rights are not unlimited; there are some exemptions including the best known exemption 'fair use.' All uses of copyrighted materials in an educational setting do not automatically qualify under the 'fair use' exemption.
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. In other words, if you create an original work of literature, music or art, that work is protected by current copyright laws.
Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
- Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
- Prepare derivative works based upon the work;
- Distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
- Perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
- Display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and
- in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
Sections of the 1976 Copyright Act state the exemptions to these rights. The major exemption of interest to faculty and students is the doctrine of "fair use."
Defined in section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act, "fair use" is a limitation on standard copyright law. Fair use is described by the U.S. Copyright Office as use of copyrighted work for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research.
Four factors should be considered carefully when trying to determine whether use of a copyrighted item is a "fair use."
- Factor 1: the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
- Factor 2: the nature of the copyrighted work;
- Factor 3: amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
- Factor 4: the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
There are several websites available that more clearly explain the process whether use of an item might qualify under the fair use exemption. One of the best tools to help with this process is the CHECKLIST available from Columbia University.
If I use it for teaching my class, isn't everything permissible as "fair use"?
No. "Fair use" doesn't always apply. Read more at Questions & Answers on Copyright for the Campus Community, Q&A #6
Can I make a recording of a television program for the purpose of showing to my class?
In a face to face classroom, this may be within fair use guidelines - as expressed in the TEACH Act of 2002 which is section 110 of the copyright law. It gets more complicated for distance education courses.
I don't see a copyright statement on it! Is it copyrighted?
It could be! Don't assume that works without a copyright notice aren't protected. The Copyright Office has issued a circular on this issue. You can also use the Digital Copyright Slider, an easy online tool to verify some rules about copyright notices and copyright length.
I've found great problem sets in a textbook. Can I photocopy the problem sets only from this text for College Reserves at the library rather than having students purchase the textbook?
No. There are rules about copying workbooks and similar copyrighted works. They are referred to in copyright law as consumables." [See page 7, pdf]
The following resource guides are useful for the academic community.
- Know Your Copy Rights, Association of Research Libraries
- Copyright Crash Course, University of Texas Libraries
- Copyright & Fair Use Charts & Tools, Stanford University Libraries
- U.S. Copyright Office
United States government agency concerned with copyright laws and regulations. Includes information about fair use exemption for educational uses.
- Copyright Advisory Services, Columbia University
Features copyright basics, materials specifically for students and faculty, and other useful resources.
- Copyright Information Center, Cornell University Library
A useful collection of tools and information about how copyright interacts with educational systems.
- Teach Act (Section 110 of the Copyright law)
The actual text of US CODE: Title 17, Section 110 describing limitations and exemptions for certain kinds of public performances and displays in the classroom and by distance education.