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Copyright Basics: Quick Guide to Copyright

Copyright Law of the United States

Fair Use

Under certain circumstances, works protected by Copyright law can be used without obtaining permission.  The most common exception to obtaining copyright permission is known as Fair Use. Copyright Act of 1976, Section 107

Fair Use is determined by evaluating four factors:

  1. Nature of the use
  2. Nature of the work used
  3. Extent of the use
  4. Economic effect of use

Not all educational uses are Fair Use and Fair Use determinations should be made on a case by case basis.

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The TEACH Act of 2002 allows accredited, nonprofit, educational institutions, under certain circumstances, to use copyrighted materials for organized instructional activities in distance education setting. Copyright Act, Section 110(2)

TEACH Act & Digital Course Material Requirements:

  • Only lawfully acquired copies can be used.
  • Use limited to performances and displays and "does not apply to materials that are for students' independent use and retention, such as textbooks or readings." Copyright Services: The TEACH Act, University of Minnesota Libraries licensed under CC-BY-NC
  • Only student enrolled in the class should have access to the materials.
  • Reasonable efforts must be made to prevent students from distributing the material after viewing it.
  • Students must be informed that the materials they access are protected by copyright.
  • Materials must be removed from course pages at end of the semester.

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ECLearn Use of Copyrighted Material

The following guidelines for copyright and course management systems like ECLearn (Canvas) are based on a Copyright Clearance Center white paper, Using Course Management Systems: Guidelines for Best Practices and Copyright Compliance (February 2011).

  • The same copyright laws that apply to print materials also apply to electronic materials placed in ECLearn. 
  • Always use permanent links when providing content from the Library's online subscription resources.
  • If you cannot provide a permanent link, limit course materials to small excerpts and include copyright notices with complete citations.

Note: Creating a "digital coursepack" of all course readings in ECLearn of unlicensed materials does not fall under fair use. ECLearn copies are not a substitute for purchasing coursepacks or textbooks.

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Accessibility and Fair Use

The Chafee Amendment (1996) and The Marrakesh Treaty (2013) ensure access to materials for the visually impaired.

  • Authorized entities can reproduce or distribute copies of "previously published literary or musical works in accessible formats exclusively for use by print-disabled persons."
  • Covers all literary and musical works.

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Faculty Quick Tips for Copyright

  • Use lawfully acquired copies.
  • Use permanent links rather than uploading PDF copies to ECLearn.
  • Share the smallest amount of a resource to make your point.
    Fair Use and the TEACH Act do not allow you to share entire works.
  • Consult a Librarian for best recommendations.

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Copyright and Faculty Publishing

As you prepare to publish a book or article, think about copyright from two perspectives:

  • What rights will you retain to use your work after it is published?
  • Is there an exemption from copyright that applies to these materials, or do you need to seek permission from the rights holder?

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Student Work - Copyright Guidelines

The Emmanuel College Intellectual Property Rights Policy (2013) states:

  • Copyright of "student works" including papers, computer programs, theses, artistic and musical works, and other creative works made by students belongs to the student unless the work falls under established exceptions

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These are basic guidelines and do not represent legal advise. Please seek legal counsel for questions related to copyright and fair use.

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