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Copyright for Research and Teaching

This guide serves as an introduction to U.S. copyright issues including definitions, fair use, research and classroom use, and related topics.

Copyright & Teaching

For teaching, copyright is sometimes a sticky issue. Do you need to get permission for use from the copyright holder or is there an exemption for your situation? This page includes information about how copyright exemptions like the TEACH Act and Fair Use affect the use of copyrighted materials in teaching.


The Teach Act gives certain permissions to non-profit educational institutions for using copyrighted works in the classroom without permission from the rights holder. This is not the same as Fair Use. The TEACH Act states that a copyrighted work may be displayed to a distance education course without consultation with the rights holder if: 

  1. The use of the work is an integral part of the class session
  2. The work is available only to students of the class
  3. The work is only available for the duration of a class session or course
  4. A reasonable effort is made to instruct students against unlawful redistribution of the work
  5. Digital copies of the work are only made if the content is not otherwise digitally available

For more information about the TEACH Act, consult the resources below: 

Fair Use for Educators

As we covered in the Fair Use tab for this guide, there are four factors that contribute to whether an educator's use of a copyrighted work is covered under Fair Use: 

  1. the purpose and character of the use;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the copyrighted work.

For more information about how Fair Use affects educators, consult the resources below:

Need Help?

If you need help navigating copyright compliance for your course materials, don't worry! There are people on campus willing to help you get the permissions you need to use copyrighted works in the classroom. 

Course Reserves

The University Library's Course Reserves can secure streaming or performance rights for items you want to use in class, and they can provide easy links to the items you are using as well! For books, they can get high quality scanned chapters of textbooks made available online. Just ask ahead to make sure that the book you want is available, and that they can procure the rights to the specific chapters you need access to.

Course Packs

If you want to get copyright permissions for multiple readings contained within a course pack for your class, you will want to contact the University Bookstore. They will handle the process of seeking copyright permissions and paying royalty fees and students will pay for the convenience of getting all their readings at one time. There is no cost or risk incurred by the instructor; however, this takes time so the Bookstore needs plenty of lead-time if you want to use this option.

Open Educational Resources

If you're interested in using course materials that have no or limited restrictions on their use, consider looking at the open educational resources (OER) available in your discipline. You can check out the curated OER repositories on our OER LibGuide or set up a consultation with the University Library's OER specialist for support locating openly licensed course materials and integrating them into your Canvas course. 


Your librarian

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Jeff Alger
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