Open Resources and Copyright

  • Use these Open Educational Resources (OER) to avoid copyright issues!


    What is copyright?

    Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works.  Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.  It protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. 

    How can we make sure not to violate copyright when doing school work?  

    Part of being a good digital citizen is respecting the intellectual property of others. Here are ways to be ethical when using other people's material:

    • Use material in the public domain like those from Creative Commons, Project Gutenberg, Library of Congress, etc. (see below for a ton of resources)
    • Ask creators and publishers for permission to use their work--It’s easier than it sounds with just an email or letter.
    • Purchase copies or licenses as required by the publisher.
    • Use links to online resources instead of printing and distributing them.
    • Use the option to filter for licensing permissions in Internet website searches.
    • Use Creative Commons licensed resources.
    • Cite sources for material that comes from other people. Not doing so is plagiarism and can cause you to not receive credit on an assignment.

    But aren't teachers and students covered under fair use? 

    Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.   This means there are times when you can use another person’s copyrighted material without permission but it isn’t a free for all.   Fair use only applies in certain instances like such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, parody, and research. Credit should still be given to the original creator of the work you use. These specific guidelines must also be followed:

    • Only use a small fraction of the work—a few quotes or part of a story are usually covered.
    • Add new meaning to the work to make it original—creating a parody of an original song.
    • Rework it to use it in a totally different way—song mash ups, interpretation pieces, etc.
    • Always use it for nonprofit purposes—never profit, even in notoriety, from someone else's hard work and creativity.
    • Your use of the material can not harm the value or potential for the material—selling copies of something.
    • See Section 107 of the Copyright Act for more information.

    Copyright and Creativity - Excellent resource for teaching copyright and fair use

    These materials aim to provide accessible and practical information about copyright in the US – its protections, its limitations, and its role in encouraging creativity. Rather than just emphasizing what copyright prohibits, the goal here is to offer useful and positive information about what copyright allows and how students can successfully navigate and rely on copyright in their own roles as creators.