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Faculty Resources: Copyright for Educators

Information about course reserves, information literacy instruction, class resources, and other resources for instructors

Quick Guide to Copyright for Educators

Not every use by a not-for-profit education institution is protected. Find out more below.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is more than citing sources. Copyright law protects the author/creator's control over their intellectual property, including control over reproduction, distribution, derivations, performance, or display.

Definition & Scope

"Copyright ... protects original works of authorship as soon as an author fixes the work in a tangible form of expression." (Find more information at the U.S. Copyright Office). In other words, almost everything is automatically protected by copyright law, regardless of whether it is registered.

The Berne Convention allows us to apply our copyright laws to works created in other countries, making it much easier to keep track of which uses are protected and which would be considered fair. (See the World Intellectual Property Organization for more information on the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.)

Exceptions for Education

The U.S. Copyright Code allows exceptions for educators under certain circumstances. The exceptions are described in Sections 110 (the TEACH Act) and 107 (Fair Use) of U.S. Copyright Code. In addition, some works are in the public domain.

The Tools & Resources listed here will help you determine if a work is in the public domain or if a use is protected under the TEACH Act or would likely be considered Fair Use. Use the other links to become more familiar with U.S. copyright law as it applies to education. These are just a few of the many good websites you can refer to.

Tools & Resources

Quick Reference

Dig Deeper


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