The goal of United States copyright law and policy is to foster the progress of science, the creation of culture, and the dissemination of ideas. Copyright law and its exemptions such as the 'fair use' doctrine, are important to faculty teaching, research and publication, multimedia projects, web sites, assignments and projects, the university's licensed resources (e.g., licensed journals) and more. Librarians will support faculty to assess the need for, and to obtain copyright permissions or to help understand when fair use may apply or review copyright agreements with publishers.
The U.S. Copyright Law specifically protects original works of creative expression by securing for the copyright owner or "rights holder" the exclusive rights of reproduction, distribution, performance, display and the permission to allow any of these. Copyright protection is automatic and goes into effect as soon as a work is captured in a tangible medium. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not required; registration does offer certain legal benefits when copyright is infringed and one wishes to bring suit.
For more details on copyright see the Copyright Basics section of the Van Pelt and Opie Library's Copyright Guide.
The need for access to copyrighted works for teaching, research and creative works is recognized in the U.S. Copyright Law in the form of limitations on exclusive rights. The following summarizes some limitations that often concern faculty; these summaries are for informational purposes only.
Fair use addresses the use of copyright protected works without the permission of the rights holder providing the use is considered fair - fairness is determined by courts of law. As copyright law is territorial, fair use applies to use of copyrighted works in the United States, regardless of where those works originated.
Fair use is flexible to help balance copyright and free speech. There is no universal guidance for determining fair use; much depends on the specific context for the intended use. Four factors are considered for each proposed use: purpose of the use, nature of the work used, amount and substantiality of portions used and potential effect on the market for the original work. Certain uses (including teaching and scholarship) and certain factors (transformative purpose and no competition with the market for the original) weigh in favor of fair use.
To learn more about fair use see the Fair Use section of the Van Pelt and Opie Library's copyright guide or contact the library at firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation.
Performances and Displays:
In the Classroom:
Under the classroom or face-to-face exemption, instructors may display or perform lawfully made copies of copyright protected works as part of their teaching unless prohibited by a work's license. The classroom limitation to copyright for performances applies to showing films or displaying images only. It does not apply to making and/or distributing handouts of copyrighted material. Certain requirements must be met in order to apply the classroom display limitation. Instruction must be face-to-face, take place in a classroom or similar instructional setting and must be at a non-profit educational institution.
Online (TEACH Act):
The TEACH Act allows the transmission of portions of legally obtained copyright protected works within the distance education or online education environment without the rights holder's permission. This would apply to streaming portions of video or audio works or displaying images. As with its face-to-face counterpart, the TEACH Act does not apply to the making and distributing copies, such as posting a copyrighted reading assignment to a Canvas page. The TEACH Act has many requirements concerning the type of work, technologies used and institutional policies that must be met before the limitation may be applied.
For additional information on using performances and displays see the Copyright in the Classroom section of the Van Pelt and Opie Library's copyright guide.
When limitations do not apply, permission from the rights holder must be sought. Examples may include displaying a protected work on a publically accessible web page, creating a collection of course readings or distributing a consumable work such as a workbook. The Van Pelt and Opie library staff will help faculty in the permissions process. Email email@example.com for assistance.
The Van Pelt and Opie Library provides access to many licensed electronic journals and books. Many licenses allow for the linking to or inclusion of content in electronic course reserves, Canvas courses and multiple handouts for classroom use. Additional information on eResource use is available at the Van Pelt and Opie Library's policies.
Works that are not protected by copyright are considered to be in the "public domain." Permission from the rights holder is not required to use these works. In the U.S., works published prior to 1923 and other works for which copyright has expired are in the public domain. Works of the Federal government are automatically in the public domain. These include many reports, surveys and maps.
To learn more about public domain works see the Copyright Basics section of the Van Pelt and Opie Library's Copyright Guide.
For More Information
Additional information and assistance is available from the Van Pelt and Opie Library. Ask Us!
See 3.3.5 Copyright Policy Regarding Scholarly, Academic and Artistic Works for more information.
12/08/2016 - Annual Review: No changes made to content.
05/05/2015 - Annual Review: "9.3.2 Copyright Policy" now reads "9.3.2 Guidelines for Faculty for Use of Copyrighted Material and Fair Use." Because the Board of Control approved policy 14.3. Copyright Policy Regarding Scholarly, Academic and Artistic Works, this section was re-written as guidelines.
04/13/2015 - Annual Review: To reflect current practice, the email address for questions is now firstname.lastname@example.org. No changes made to content.
02/26/2014 - Annual Review: Updated Michigan Tech and Handbook banners, no changes made to content.
06/27/2011 - Annual Review: Was previously 9.4.2. To reflect current University titles and practice, MTU is now Michigan Tech and the email address for questions is now hbwebmaster.
09/20/2010 - Format changes.