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Copyright Resources: Share

Information...not Advice

The information on this site should NOT be considered legal advice.  The author is a librarian, not a lawyer, and this LibGuide is intended as just that: a guide.  If you are unsure of whether or not something is legal, please talk to an attorney.

Help! I Need Somebody...

If you are concerned about an issue related to course content on Moodle or ERes at Kenyon, please contact one of the reference librarians.  We have resources to help you determine if your use is fair or if we need to get permission.

Read more information and submit a form request here on the Course Readings Page


Assigning is Sharing

When a professor assigns a reading to a student, or a student references an article in a paper, or a boss suggests a book to an employee - we are sharing that content with each other.  As we mentioned before, copyright law governs the making of copies.  You might not realize it, but every time you download a file, you've made a copy in the eyes of the law.

Consider this example:  If you download a pdf copy of an article from JSTOR and email it to 25 people, that creates 25 copies - there are now 25 pdfs floating out there on other people's computers (or their email servers).  

However, if you send 25 people the link to an article in JSTOR, and they each go view it themselves, no copies have been made. 

Sharing content is an essential part of teaching and learning.  However, it is important that we make thoughtful choices which respect the rights of copyright holders and protect the College's liability, but that also defend the right of fair use.  

In the Create tab, we discussed the "Code of Best Practices" - here in the Share arena, there are several more documents in this vein that will help you listed at the left.

Borrowing from Others

The University of Minnesota Libraries has put together an EXCELLENT guide on using copyrighted materials, which I have excerpted here (I know what you're thinking, and I'm glad - it means this copyright stuff is getting through - but it's ok.  The following is licensed through a Creative Commons license - covered on the Create tab).  Source:

Using Copyrightable Materials

A copyright owner has the right to control a lot of uses of their works, like making copies (of all or part of a work), distributing copies, showing or performing a work in public, and making new works based on existing ones.

We all make many uses of creative works. Some are more passive - reading, watching, listening; and some are more active - citing, copying, remixing. Many very simple, everyday uses, like forwarding an email (you just made a copy!), or watching movies with friends (is that a public performance?) overlap with, or "implicate" copyright rights.

In fact, there is a lot of overlap between uses people make of copyrightable works, and the kinds of uses copyright owners control.

Sometimes it feels like every use requires permission.

It's really important to remember there are many limitations and exceptions to copyright owners' rights, and many types of uses that are exempted in certain circumstances. So even though the uses people want to make overlap a lot with the uses owners control, there are many situations where the use is allowed!

Copyright has room for many uses!

Sometimes you may be able to use something because it falls under an exception or exemption to copyright law - for example, small business owners may be able to play music off the radio (which would otherwise be a public performance, requiring permission) because there is a specific exception in the law for small business use of broadcast media! Other times, you may be able to use something because your use fits within fair use, a flexible-but-confusing part of the law that enables many different types of uses under many different conditions.

Material from the University of Minnesota University Libraries,

Learn More (at the University of Minnesota Libraries Copyright page)


The TEACH Act, or the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act - let's stick to TEACH, shall we? - was designed to update copyright law for distance education that was no longer taking place via correspondence course or television.  Instead, it had moved to the Internet (like everything else).

Using the new exceptions defined in the TEACH Act (codified in Section 110(2) of Title 17) would allow for distance educators to transmit "the performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or reasonable and limited portions of any other work, or display of a work in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session non-dramatic performances to their students."  The problem with the TEACH Act, unforunately, is what follows that if: the myriad requirements and conditions which must be met in order to utilize the exceptions contained therein.

However, the Copyright Crash Course at the University of Texas has a great section on The TEACH Act including a checklist to see if one had met all the requirements and schools like North Carolina State University have created a TEACH Act Toolkit to help people take advantage of the provisions in the legislation.

Fair Use

The Center for Intellectual Property Handbook describes Fair Use in a really elegant way:

"Fair use enables the use of the copyright owner's exclusive rights for activities that serve the common good and foster debate, criticism, education and scholarship."

In other words, the doctrine of fair use allows us to balance the rights of the copyright owner with what society needs.  Asserting that a use is fair allows a user to continue that use without seeking permission.  However, that assertion must be based on reasonable belief, and involves weighing four factors:

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

It is important to note, however, there is no magic number.  Whether or not a use is fair is determined when a copyright owner sues a content creator, and the content creator defends him or herself by saying, "hey, wait, that's fair use!"  The courts have handed down several decisions which give users guidance in this area.  For details, see the Legal Background section.

For more information on how to evaluate if a use is fair, see the "Create" tab and "Fight for Your Right to Fair Use."

The Public Domain

Fortunately, there are lots of materials available in the public domain.  The public domain refers to the body of works which are not protected by copyright or which were protected by copyright, but it has now expired.

For example, since we know from our "basics" section that theorems aren't copyright-able, those would be in the public domain, along with facts, ideas, processes, etc.  Government documents, including laws and court cases, are also in the public domain.

And, since The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was copyrighted in 1875 and that copyright has since expired, that work is also in the public domain.  Charts like this one or tools like the ALA Digital Copyright Slider can help you determine if a work in the public domain, and therefore unrestricted for you to use.


This LibGuide is a work in progress.  Have suggestions?  See something you don't understand?  Please contact LBIS.