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Copyright @SVCC: Copyright in Education

Basic introduction to copyright in the educational environment.

Copyright in Education

The use of materials that are protected by copyright is unquestionably necessary for teaching and learning. Although there is no blanket exemption that can be applied in educational contexts, there are a number of exceptions built into U.S. copyright law that support teachers and students who use copyright protected materials for teaching and learning. Three particularly important exceptions are specifically aimed at nonprofit educational institutions and libraries.

  • Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law (Fair Use) allows limited copying of copyrighted works without the permission of the owner for certain purposes, including teaching and research.
  • Section 108 of U.S .Copyright Law gives libraries and archives special exemptions for the reproduction of copyrighted works in some circumstances. 
  • Section 110 of U.S. Copyright Law gives teachers and students certain rights to publicly display and perform copyrighted works in the classroom.

Face-to-Face vs. Online Instruction

Copyright law applies differently in face-to-face and online instruction. However, the following advice regarding use of copyrighted material for instruction is valid in both contexts:

Use the work in accordance with its existing license. The library subscribes to a great deal of online content with licenses that allow for use in face-to-face and online classrooms.

Use works with Creative Commons licenses. Content creators are electing more often to use Creative Commons licenses for their work. You are free to copy and share this content as long as you use the work in accordance with the CC license applied by the creator.

Provide links rather than copies. It is never a violation of copyright to share a link to online content that is itself non-infringing. You just need to be sure any link you provide is functioning, and that it does not lead to a paywall that impedes access.

Get permission to use the material. You can seek permission to use a copyrighted work by contacting the copyright owner or by taking advantage of SVCC's Copyright Clearance Center Academic Site License. 


This library guide is published for informational purposes and should not be interpreted as a substitute for legal advice.
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