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Copyright: Guidelines for Faculty, Staff, and Students

Legal Disclaimer

Please Note: This copyright guide serves for informational purposes to lead the user to resources on copyright law and should not be construed as legal advice. Please direct any questions to, and a member of the copyright committee will send you resources to help you find answers.     


Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17), Chapter 1

Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances. See, Fair Use Index, and Circular 21, Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians.

Stated under the Fair Use:   

Fair use permits, in certain circumstances, the unlicensed use of copyrighted works, including “such use by reproduction in copies or phono records or by any other means specified by that section,” as well as limited portions of a work including quotes for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly  reports. The following factors determine Fair Use:

  • Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • Nature of the copyrighted work;
  • Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Reference:

Fair Use Evaluator: This tool helps you determine Fair Use under the U.S. Copyright Code.  

For employees of nonprofit educational institutions Section 504(c)(2) of the Copyright Act makes provisions for those who act with a good faith belief that they are within their fair use rights.  

TEACH Act is the acronym for the 2002 law, "Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act” –amended Section 110 (2) and 112 of the Copyright Act to facilitate the growth of distance learning. The law’s primary focus addresses copyrighted works used in distance education within the context of “mediated instructional” sessions. A class session is a period of time analogous to the "live" class session where displays and performances would normally occur. Material used must be an integral part of the class experience. Additionally, material must be controlled or under the faculty member’s actual supervision. This law allows for a wider range of materials particularly concerning media resources. The TEACH Act pertains to nonprofit, accredited educational institutions distance education courses are encouraged to use links to authorized sites. Links are not a copyright problem. Resource cited: American Library Association.   

Litmus Test for Fair Use

Consult the diagram below to determine copyright infringement or permission.

litmus image