Questions about Copyright
Copyright law (17 U.S.C. ) gives certain exclusive rights to the copyright holder of a creative work for a limited period of time.
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
Copyright protects authors, publishers and producers, and the public.
Copyright protects eight categories of works, regardless of format:
- Literary works
- Musical works
- Dramatic works
- Pantomimes and choreographic works
- Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
- Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
- 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.
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
- Receiving a response and/or permission could take several weeks
- Follow fair use guidelines or find other materials to use if there is no response from the copyright holder
Columbia University provides sample permission letters on their Copyright Advisory Office website.
Failure to seek permission or an exception will expose you to claims of copyright infringement.
The Fair Use Doctrine (17 U.S.C. § 107 ) allows others to reproduce copyrighted works in certain circumstances without seeking permission from the copyright holder. These include teaching, research, and criticism.
Fair Use is often complex and flexible.
Copyright applies four factors to determine if use of a copyrighted work is ‘fair’:
- Purpose of the use (educational vs. commercial)
- Nature of the copyrighted work
- Amount used (the greater the amount copied, the less likely it is fair use)
- Effect of the use on the potential market for, or value of, the work
You do not need to meet all four factors, but the more you meet the better.
Public domain works
Anyone can use public domain works without seeking copyright permission.
Works can enter the public domain when the:
- Copyright term expires (Cornell University Copyright Term and Public Domain chart)
- U.S. Federal Government or its employees create the work
- Copyright holder purposefully places their work in the ‘public domain’
Most works enter the public domain because the copyright term expires.
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 or follow fair use guidelines for publication purposes.
The NDSU Libraries’ Interlibrary Loan Office adheres to the CONTU Guidelines for lawful use of copyrighted materials.
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 a calendar year
When requesting copies of non-periodical items, we cannot request more than:
- Six copies of articles, chapters, or small portions of a work,
- Within a calendar year,
- During the entire copyright term of the work
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.
Copyright for Faculty and Instructors
Copyright includes a specific exception for instructors and students to display or perform legally acquired works in traditional classroom or face-to-face instruction spaces for instructional, not entertainment, purposes.
These works can include the printed word as well as images, music, and videos (NDSU Information Technology Services Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia).
Fair use and copying guidelines
All copied works should include an appropriate copyright notice on the item.
You can make a single copy of the items below for teaching and/or preparing to teach a class:
- 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
You can also make multiple copies of works for classroom use or discussion if they:
- Do not exceed more than one copy per pupil in a course
- Are brief and spontaneous
- Are used in only one course
You should seek permission from the copyright holder before making copies of ‘consumable’ works, such as workbooks, exercises, and test booklets.
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.
The TEACH (Technology Education and Copyright Harmonization) Act allows instructors to offer a similar level of instruction in both online and face-to-face classrooms by following similar requirements for sharing copyrighted works.
This act lets you share copyrighted materials for distance learning via course management systems like Blackboard when the:
- Amount of content shared is similar to face-to-face teaching
- Content is only accessible to students officially registered for the course
- Content includes an appropriate copyright notice
You may also upload materials to Blackboard or another course website if you:
- Hold copyright of the material
- Make the material available by linking rather than copying
- Get permission from the copyright holder
- Utilize material that is in public domain
- Follow fair use guidelines
Instructors can place various items on physical and electronic course reserves 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.
Disclaimer: This guide is for educational and informational purposes only. It does not reflect legal advice.