Copyright Issues for Faculty

Faculty Copyright Guidelines for Providing Digital Texts to Students

Below are some commonly-used basic guidelines for faculty providing digital texts (e.g. via email or secure website) to students. (These are just basic "rules of thumb", from the University of Texas, but they are used by many colleges. The law is much more confusing and vague.)  If you have any questions, feel free to contact Eric Brenner at x4177. (Caveat: this is not legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for legal advice!)

Rules of Thumb for Digitizing and Using Others' Works in Electronic Reserves

The Fair Use Guidelines for Electronic Reserve Systems describe general limitations on the scope of materials that should be included, citation and notice requirements and access, use, storage and reuse of reserve materials.

1. Limit reserve materials to:

  • single articles or chapters; several charts, graphs or illustrations; or other small parts of a work
  • a small part of the materials required for the course
  • copies of materials that a faculty member or the library already possesses legally (i.e., by purchase, license, fair use, interlibrary loan, etc.)

2. Include:

  • any copyright notice on the original
  • appropriate citations and attributions to the source
  • a Section 108(f)(1) notice*
  • * a Section 108(f)(1) notice is a notice that making copies may be subject to copyright law, e.g.:

    Copyright Notice: "Copying, displaying and distributing copyrighted works, may infringe the owner's copyright. The University of Texas System's policy statement on Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials can help you determine whether your use of a copyrighted work may be an infringement. Any use of computer or duplicating facilities by students, faculty or staff for infringing use of copyrighted works is subject to appropriate disciplinary action as well as those civil remedies and criminal penalties provided by federal law."

3. Limit access to students enrolled in the class and administrative staff as needed.

Terminate access at the end of the class term.

4. Obtain permission for materials that will be used repeatedly by the same instructor for the same class.

Three Common Misconceptions about Copyright

  1. If there is no copyright symbol ([C]), the work is not protected by copyright.
  2. Copyright protects ideas.
  3. Copyright was created primarily to protect an author's intellectual property.

The Facts:

  • Original works are protected by copyright from the moment they are fixed in a tangible medium
  • Copyright protects the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves
  • The primary purpose of copyright is to promote learning, not to protect property (1)
  • 10 (more) Big Myths about copyright

The Copyright Balance (2)

Copyright law attempts to balance the rights of the author with the rights of the public, but congressional action, judicial interpretation, and international treaties continuously adjust the pivot point of that balance. The balance has steadily shifted away from promoting the public good (learning) in favor of protecting the copyright owner's property. Types of work protected by copyright have expanded-from the just published maps and books to virtually any work that is fixed in a tangible medium

Term of protection has been extended from 14 years to the life of the author plus 70 years

Fair Use

  • Provision in 1976 Copyright Act attempted to redress this growing imbalance
  • Sets a limit on the monopolistic control of the author.
  • If the use of a work promotes learning, knowledge, and the public good and if its use will do relatively little harm to the author's property rights, then it is not necessary to get the author's permission to use the work.

The Four Factor Fair Use Test

  1. What is the character of the use?
  2. What is the nature of the work to be used?
  3. How much of the work will you use?
  4. What effect would this use have on the market for the original or for permissions if the use were widespread?
  5. * An unwritten 5th factor: Time limits

Fair Use Rules of Thumb (University of Texas)

Horror Story: The Texaco Case

Copyright and the Web (3)

  • When you access a web page, you are (temporarily) copying the page info to your computer
  • When you use your browser's Save function to save the Web page to your computer, do you have a valid fair use argument for doing so?
  • A link is a URL, a fact not unlike a street address, and is therefore not copyrightable. However, a list may be copyrightable under a compilation copyright if it contains some originality
  • Implied public access: by putting yourself on the Web, you have given implied permission to others to link to your Web page, and everyone else on the Web is deemed to have given you implied permission to link to their Web pages. Netiquette dictates that: Links to other Websites be removed if the linkee objects.
  • Composite Webpages, e.g. frames & other methods of creating pages by "hidden links" to graphics and other elements from the original sources; implied public access does not apply if context is changed.
  • For more: Copyright Website: Website Issues, Copyright Law in Cyberspace

How to Stay Legal

More Resources

Works Cited

1. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor: "The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but `[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.' To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work. This result is neither unfair nor unfortunate. It is the means by which copyright advances the progress of science and art." (Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Feist Publications. Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340, 349 (1991))

2. "Three Common Assumptions" & "Copyright Balance" based on: Hilton, James. "Copyright Assumptions and Challenges". Educause Review, Nov./Dec. 2001, Vol. 36, Issue 6, page 46+.

3. Copyright Website: Website Issues  


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