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Copyright @SVCC: Using Copyrighted Materials

Basic introduction to copyright in the educational environment.

Intellectual Property and Copyright

You have found an article, an image, or a video that perfectly illustrates or encapsulates an insight you want to share with others. That article, image, or video is most likely someone else's intellectual property, so you want to be sure you are not infringing on that person's rights by sharing their work. How do you do this?

Determine the Copyright Status

The work is not protected if:
  • it is comprised solely of facts, ideas, short phrases
  • its copyright term has lapsed and not been renewed
  • it was dedicated to the public domain
  • it was produced by an employee of the federal government
The work is protected if:
  • it is fixed in a tangible medium
  • it was not dedicated to the public domain
  • it is within its copyright term limits

Options for Copyright Protected Works

Do a Fair Use analysis

1. Purpose of use (nonprofit educational use is more likely to be fair use than commercial use)
2. Nature of the copyrighted work (factual work is more likely to be fair use than creative work)
3. Amount & substantiality of the portion used in proportion to the whole
4. Effect of the use on the potential market for the work

Use the work with permission

1. Check RightFind Academic to verify permission with our Copyright Clearance Center Academic Site License
2. Contact the copyright holder directly for permission

Use the work in accordance with its license

Licensed Library Content

The library provides a collection of licensed content from online databases, each with vendor-consumer license agreements. Specific terms of use for downloading, printing, and including in course packs and e-reserves are included in these agreements, which take precedence over copyright law.

Licensed with Creative Commons

You are free to copy and share content that has been licensed through the Creative Commons as long as you use the work in accordance with the CC license applied by the creator.

Link to the source

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

Whichever method you use to ensure you are compliant, always attribute the source. Include a full citation and copyright register's warning with an additional warning about further electronic distribution. 


Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States

Cornell University Library
A table that clearly lays out the copyright status of a work based on publication year and/or renewal.

The Copyright Genie

Michael Brewer and the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy
A question/answer wizard that determines the copyright protection on a work depending on age and policy. The end results can be exported into a PDF for personal record.

Checklist for Fair Use

Copyright Advisory Office, Columbia University Libraries/Information Services
A PDF version of the checklist may be downloaded and shared with attribution.

Asking for Permission

Columbia University Libraries
Procedures for contacting and seeking permission from copyright holders plus same letters for videos, text material, and using material in a course management system.

Creative Commons Attribution Builder

Open Washington
Interactive online tool to help users of CC material build an attribution.


This library guide is published for informational purposes and should not be interpreted as a substitute for legal advice.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License