Copyright law reserves rights for creators (and often their employers) to reproduce, share, adapt, and perform what they create.
Copyright applies to tangible materials that have even the tiniest bit of creativity. Art works, written documents, and sound recordings are protected because they are original and can be physically copied or shared. Facts are not protected because they are not original; ideas are not protected because they are not tangible.
Copyright is automatic; if your creation is eligible for protection, there's nothing else you're required to do. That article you wrote? That stick figure you doodled in class? Both are automatically protected. However, you can register works with the U.S. Copyright Office, and that's a good idea if you want others to find a record of your copyright.
This guide is meant to be informative but is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Our intention is to inform the community to make the best decisions possible, but if you are entering into a risky situation you should consult a lawyer familiar with intellectual property law. Scarborough Library does not assume any liability for any loss or damaged caused by errors or omissions in this research guide.
Scarborough Library's Course Reserve team can support you in getting course materials. Liaison librarians can help identify relevant materials available in the Libraries' collections or freely online without risk of copyright infringement. If you need to upload or link to materials for students to access, these are great places to start.
The Libraries collections include millions of books, articles, streaming videos, and other materials to support your teaching without copyright concerns. You can also take advantage of videos, images, and other content made available online under Creative Commons licenses, which allow for reuse with attribution.
Fair use becomes even more critical in an online or hybrid learning context where other exemptions in U.S. Copyright Law are more constrained. Fair use is an explicit part of copyright law that allows all of us to repurpose portions of copyright-protected works in contexts such as education and scholarship. Questions to ask as you upload materials for your students or create online lectures include:
Shepherd University relies on fair use and other areas of copyright law to prioritize access to course materials for students with disabilities. Learn more about campus resources to make your course accessible and inclusive.
There are a few ways to share materials while easily lowering your risk of copyright infringement: