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Home Research Guides Copyright



This guide is intended to answer common questions about copyright in the classroom and for publication. If you have a question that is not answered here, please contact your subject librarian.

Disclaimer: This guide is for educational and informational purposes only. It does not reflect legal advice.

Copyright in the Classroom

What can I use in my physical classroom?

Copyright includes a specific exemption for instructors and students to use legally acquired works in face-to-face classroom spaces for instructional, not entertainment, purposes. These works can include the printed word as well as images, music, and videos. For more information see: NDSU Information Technology Services Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia.

Guidelines for educational fair use of copyrighted materials

You can make multiple copies of the following for classroom use:

  • Chapter from a book
  • Article from a periodical or newspaper
  • Short story, short essay, or short poem, whether or not from a collective work
  • Chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical or newspaper

However, copies for the classroom:

  • Should not exceed more than one copy per student in a course
  • Are used in only one course and not across multiple semesters
  • All copied works should be accompanied by an appropriate copyright notice 

‘Consumable’ works, such as workbooks, exercises, and test booklets are NOT covered under fair use guidelines for education.You need to seek permission from the copyright holder before making copies of them.

NDSU Policy Manual Section 340.1 stipulates that faculty should obtain copyright permission for any coursepack materials. Faculty can obtain permission directly from copyright holders or work with the NDSU Bookstore.

Special note about student work: Student's original work is covered by copyright and permissions must be sought for posting student work online, for publishing, and other purposes. Anonymized student work can be used for programmatic assessment.

Can I upload this to BlackBoard?

The TEACH Act offers guidelines for the use of copyrighted works that are different for the online environment than the physical one. The Act allows using copyrighted materials for distance learning via course management systems like Blackboard when the:

  • Content is only accessible to students officially registered for the course (that is, course requires an institutional log in like Black Board does)
  • Content includes an appropriate copyright notice
  • If you use your own website to deliver course content and you want to post copyrighted content for student use, it must be password protected and not available on the open web.

However, there are strict limitations on student use of copyrighted materials in the online learning environment:

  • Students may NOT download the content to their own computers
  • They can not revise the materials
  • They may NOT copy or distribute the materials

For more information, see the University of California’s Teach Act Details and the Copyright Clearance Center’s Brief Guide to the TEACH ACT.

You can upload materials to Blackboard or other CMS if you:

  • Hold the copyright to the material
  • Make the material available by linking out rather than copying
  • Get permission from the copyright holder
  • Utilize material that is in public domain

For a general rule of thumb: When in doubt, link out to the work rather than upload or embed the work in your CMS. Doing so will avoid the restrictions of the TEACH Act. If you are unsure how you can do this, especially with materials from the Libraries' databases, contact your subject librarian.

Can I place this on course reserve?

Instructors can place both physical and electronic items on course reserve for educational and non-commercial use by students officially enrolled in their courses. Electronic reserves allow multiple simultaneous users and requires the use of a password to comply with copyright guidelines.

Please contact Zachary Drechsel,  Reserves/Evening Supervisor, with questions or review Course Reserve Information for Faculty.

Copyright for Disquisitions

Can I include text/images I found online or in another publication in my disquisition?

Copyright law requires you to have the permission of the owner to reproduce content in your disquisition unless specific exemptions are met. You may use the content without specific permission if

If your work does not meet one or both of these requirements you will need to request permission.

For more information, see Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis: Ownership, Fair Use, and Your Rights and Responsibilities

Can I include my own articles in my disquisition?

Whether you are allowed to include a version of your papers will depend on the contract you signed with the publishers. Publisher contracts vary widely in the range of permissions they give their authors. See for more information.

How do I request permission to use copyrighted materials?

Permission will need to be requested from each publisher. To facilitate this, many publishers use a service from the Copyright Clearance Center. You can find permissions requirements on the websites of other publishers.

Copyright for Publication

Can I include text or images I found online/in other publications in my publication?

When publishing a journal article, conference paper, or book chapter you will typically need to obtain written permission from the copyright owner, usually the publisher. If the text or images come with a Creative Commons license, you will need to check the permissions associated with the type of license to determine how you may use it and how it needs to be cited.

How do I request permission to use copyrighted materials?

Permission will need to be requested from each publisher. To facilitate this, many publishers use a service from the Copyright Clearance Center. Many publishers also post their permissions requirements on their websites.

Copyright Basics

What is copyright?

Copyright law (17 U.S.C. [2016]) gives certain exclusive rights to the copyright holder of a creative work for a limited period of time. Copyright protects authors, publishers and producers, and the public. Copyright holders have the exclusive right to:

  • Reproduce the work
  • Prepare a derivative of the work
  • Distribute copies or transfer ownership of the work
  • Publicly perform and/or display the work

What does copyright protect?

Copyright protects eight categories of works, regardless of format:

  • Literary 
  • Musical 
  • Dramatic 
  • Pantomimes and choreography
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual formats
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

Copyright does NOT protect things like ideas, names, facts, public domain works, or works not fixed in a tangible medium of expression.

Can I use a copyrighted work in my own work?

To use a copyrighted work, you must either seek permission from the copyright holder or utilize an exception, such as fair use (17 U.S.C. § 107 [2016]) or educational use (17 U.S.C. § 110 [2016]). To seek permission:

  • Identify the copyright holder
    • If you cannot identify the copyright holder, follow fair use guidelines or find other materials to use
  • Send a written request for permission to the copyright holder
  • Follow fair use guidelines or find other materials to use if there is no response from the copyright holder

Failure to seek permission or an exception could expose you to claims of copyright infringement.

What is fair use?

The Fair Use Doctrine (17 U.S.C. § 107 [2016]) allows others to reproduce copyrighted works in certain circumstances without seeking permission from the copyright holder. Circumstances may include teaching, research, and criticism. Determining fair use can be complicated.

Copyright law applies four factors to determine if use of a copyrighted work is ‘fair’:

  1. Purpose of the use (educational vs. commercial)
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work (creative works enjoy stronger protections than non-creative works)
  3. Amount used (the greater the amount copied, the less likely it is fair use)
  4. Potential financial impacts on the work used

Educational uses are NOT automatically ‘fair use’. For more information check out the American Library Association’s Fair Use Evaluator.

What are public domain and unpublished works?

Public domain works

Anyone can use public domain works without seeking copyright permission. Works enter the public domain when the:

Unpublished works

Copyright law protects works that are unpublished or not registered for copyright. At NDSU, the majority of materials held by the NDSU Archives and Germans from Russia Heritage Collection are unpublished works. Students, faculty, staff, and community members can use unpublished materials at the NDSU Archives and Germans from Russia Heritage Collection for research or personal use. It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission from the copyright holder of an unpublished work or follow fair use guidelines for publication purposes.

How does copyright affect interlibrary loan?

The NDSU Libraries’ Interlibrary Loan Office adheres to the CONTU Guidelines for lawful use of copyrighted materials. These guidelines only pertain to copies of works made to share via interlibrary loan. These guidelines do NOT pertain to items like whole physical books and dvds. When requesting copies of articles, we cannot request more than:

  • Five articles that are less than five years old from a particular journal or periodical within one calendar year

When requesting copies of non-periodical items (like books), we cannot request more than:

  • Six copies of articles, chapters, or small portions of a single work within a calendar year during the entire time the work is subject to copyright

The NDSU Libraries’ Interlibrary Loan staff will notify you if there is a copyright issue with your request, and will provide options to obtain the requested material. Please contact the NDSU Libraries’ Interlibrary Loan Office at 701-231-8885 if you have questions.


Disclaimer: This guide is for educational and informational purposes only. It does not reflect legal advice.


Last updated: 8/15/2019