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Copyright and Fair Use

Information and resources about copyright law and fair use. PLEASE NOTE: this guide contains legal information but does not constitute legal advice.

Welcome to the Douglas D. Schumann Library

These resources provide an entry to legal literacy about copyright legislation, fair use, and public domain to assist you in making informed decisions about using information in a responsible way. This guide does not constitute legal advice.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a set of protections afforded to the author of an original work.  In the United States, copyright arises from Article I, §8 of the United States Constitution, which allows Congress "[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."  The specific laws governing copyright are found primarily in 17 U.S.C. §101ff., as well as court rulings that interpret this legislation:

Copyright & Teaching

While using a copyrighted work without permission for educational purposes is often acceptable, educational use is no guarantee.  If you want to use the work of other authors, you may need permission from the copyright holder.  

  1. First determine whether the work is protected by copyright law.  If it is not, you may use it without permission.  If it is protected by copyright law, you may still be able to use the work without permission if you can make a fair use argument.  If the work is protected by copyright law and you cannot make a fair use argument, then you will need to seek permission.
  2. Consider copyright law whenever you are using someone else's work in your teaching, In a digital age, using a work ("copying") can include, but is not limited to: photocopying; scanning (to print, to file, or to email); printing out; making a PDF; copying, downloading, or uploading a digital file; and converting analog format to digital format. 
  3. Linking to online content does not constitute making a copy, so you should favor links wherever possible.

You Do Not Need to Seek Permission When...

  • You are the copyright holder. In the case of published works that you authored, review your agreement with the publisher to confirm that you have retained copyright.
  • Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT) is the copyright holder and you are faculty, staff, or a student at WIT.  
  • Works governed by a Creative Commons license under a specified type of license which permits scholarly use.
  • Works in the public domain are freely available to the public. Consult one of these public domain calculators or charts.
  • Open educational resources are purposely designed to relieve faculty of the responsibility to seek copyright permissions and may be used freely.

If none of the above cases applies, you still may be able to use the work in question if you can make a fair use argument.