Skip to Main Content

Faculty & Instructors

Copyright Definition

Copyright is the protection provided by U.S. law for authors of “original works of authorship” once the work is in a fixed and tangible form. A work is fixed when it is in a permanent form that can be “perceived, reproduced, or communicated for more than a short time.” 

Copyright provides the copyright holder with exclusive rights to reproduce, create derivative works, distribute copies to the public for sale, rental, lease, or lending, perform or display the work publicly. 

For works created on or after January 1, 1978 copyright lasts the life of the author plus seventy years after the death of the author. Works made for hire or anonymous works copyright last ninety-five years from publication or one hundred and twenty years from creation, whichever is least.

U.S. Copyright Office (3/2021). Copyright Basics.

Fair Use

Fair Use simply ensures that there are some kinds of uses that do not require permission or payment.  It attempts to protect the rights of creators while still allowing some uses that can benefit society as a whole, e.g. it can encourage scholarship, debate, creativity, and innovation.
The 4 major guidelines for determining Fair Use are the following:

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

When determining if your use is fair you will need to balance these four factors. This fair use checklist from Columbia University can serve as a good guide when analyzing whether or not your use is likely to be considered fair.

Best Practices

  • In Blackboard or other online platforms link to the original source on the web or in the library collection. This eliminates questions about the permissibility of including a pdf copy of a copyrighted document. Connect with the library ( or your library liaison) to talk about using Leganto to create a course reading list for your students to use.
  • Streaming video is generally governed by license agreements. The library provides access to streaming videos that you can link to and show to your classes. Personal streaming accounts (e.g. Netflix, Hulu, etc.) are governed by the license you sign. You will need to be familiar with that license before using any content with a class. Please be aware that those licenses generally do not permit classroom use and there may be rights management software in place that technically prevents you from showing a streaming video in class.
  • Consumable workbooks should not be digitized or placed on reserve, this will not pass a fair use test.
  • Contact the library ( with any questions and we can work together to research your situation or find alternative materials that can be used.

Additional Resources

Copyright Permission

Contact the library at if you need to request permission from a copyright holder to use an item. We can provide you with guidance and a template to follow to request permission to use a copyrighted work.