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Library Information for Faculty


The law around copyright can be complicated but here are some basic ideas that can help:

Most works are protected by copyright
Almost all creative and intellectual works are protected by copyright. This includes all kinds of works like websites, videos, articles, blogs, etc, etc. Facts, ideas, and processes are not subject to copyright. 

Copyright is automatic
Creative and intellectual works do not have to have a copyright notice or be registered to have copyright protections. This means that works upon creation have full and automatic copyright protections.

If something is protected by copyright, you can only use (copy, perform, display, make new works based on) it if you have permission from the copyright owner or your use has to be allowed by one of the exceptions in the law.

Relevant Links for Understanding Copyright

Copyright Info for Faculty

Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976 describes criteria to be considered when using copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright holder. This exemption is known as "fair use." 

Thus, academic uses may qualify as a fair use. There are a few things to be aware of, though:

  • Fair use determinations should be made on a case-by-case basis (i.e. not every scholarly use of an item is fair use);
  • Fair use is a weighing test and is not limited to the four factors described below (judges may take other factors into account);
  • Fair use is an affirmative defense (in other words, a person can still be sued for copyright violations even if the use is almost certainly a fair one--since fair use is an affirmative defense, the burden is on the person making the copy (the user of the work) to justify the use as a fair use.

Keeping those points in mind, the four fair use factors (ALL must be met) provided in Section 107 of the Copyright Act are:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Obtain Permission for Materials Posted to D2L

Online educators frequently post course materials which include articles, book chapters, podcasts and streaming videos on their websites.  These postings must be in compliance with copyright law which gives automatic protection to almost everything. To be “safe” it is recommended to assume that everything is copyrighted and to obtain permission from the copyright holder if in doubt.  

Use Creative Commons Materials 

Another option is to use material with a Creative Commons License. It is also advisable to provide a link to a website rather than copying the material. Of course material that is in the public domain may be used.  In general works published prior to 1923 in the U.S. are in the public domain.

The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH) was passed in 2002 to amend the Copyright Act of 1976. It covers distance education and classroom teaching with an online component. 

Image showing a decision map for determining fair use

Image from University of Minnesota Libraries