Primer for Teaching Online
5. Copyright and Fair Use
The placement of web-based and traditionally researched materials on your course website seems like a logical way of providing students with appropriate materials for study. What better way of providing your students with material from a virtually unlimited number of resources such as books, magazines, journals, videos, audio, movies, soundtracks, websites, and so forth. And the use of these materials can provide an excellent supplement to the standard textbook as long as your materials do not violate current copyright law. The illegal use of copyrighted materials, either knowingly or not, can bring about considerable embarrassment and legal hassles to both you and your institution.
Copyrights exists to promote original expression in a variety of ways. Copyright law states that authors of original works may receive appropriate compensation for their efforts.
What is Fair Use?
Fair use allows limited copying and distribution of copyrighted works without permission of the author. Examples might include quotations used in articles or the copying of a small segment of an original work for use in the classroom. The definition of Fair Use is under constant scrutiny by the federal government and can change frequently. Fair Use may be used:
- When copying material for use at a nonprofit institution, distributed without charge, for temporary use, and made by a student or teacher acting on their own.
- When the amount of material used is considered to be insubstantial in length when compared to the entire work.
- When the use of the material will not replace or diminish the market for the original work.
- Regents Guide to Copyright and Fair Use, The University System of Georgia Board of Regents
- UT System Copyright Crash Course, The University of Texas System
- Copyright Resources on the Internet, The University of Texas System
What is Within Public Domain?
Works that fall outside the provisions of copyright are typically in the public domain and may be copied freely by anyone. Public domain works include those of the United States government and works where the copyright has expired.
- For works created after 1978, the copyright expires 50 years after the death of the author.
- For works created between 1950 and 1978, the copyright lasts for 75 years.
- For works created and first published before 1950, the copyright lasts for 28 years unless the copyright was renewed for another 28 years.
When Should I Ask Permission?
Always get permission from authors, especially publishers, before placing their materials into your course. Publishers are usually easy to deal with if you are up front with what you want to do and are using a reasonable amount of material for academic purposes. Journal articles are another commonly used resource in web-based courses, and most journal article authors are quite easy to deal with, and rightly so. Broad use of the author’s research materials will add to their academic presence in the field. However, journal authors may not be able to authorize the use of their materials. It is usually recommended to go through the journal of original publication.
How Should I Acknowledge the Author?
Always give proper credit to the author when using copyrighted material. This is done by including the copyright symbol (either “Copyright” or “©” ) and by including the author’s name either next to or directly underneath the work. It is important to ensure that it is visible to anyone using the work.