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How To - Use Copyright on Campus: Getting Started

Basic information and resources for students, faculty, and staff.

Copyright Highlights

What is copyright?

Copyright law reserves rights for creators (and often their employers) to reproduce, share, adapt, and perform what they create.

What does copyright protect?

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.

How do I copyright my creation?

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.

Copyright Considerations for Instructors

Copyright Considerations for Instructors

Moving your course online, or back to face-to-face? Uploading new materials to Brightspace/Sakai? In general, you have leeway under U.S. Copyright Law to make resources available to support student learning and equitable access. A few tips:
The Libraries are here for you.

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.

Use what's out there.

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. 

Leverage fair use.

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:

  • How does this material support my goals for student learning, and how am I contextualizing or transforming the material through lectures, assignments, etc.?
  • Am I using only enough of the material to meet these goals? This may range from a few pages to an entire work in some cases.
  • Is there a feasible way for students to access the material on the commercial market? Or is copying and sharing critical to their success in this course? 
Fair use supports accessibility.

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.

Lower risk with simple steps.

There are a few ways to share materials while easily lowering your risk of copyright infringement:

  • Link to content: In general, linking to online resources (where you can identify and trust the source) falls within the scope of fair use.
  • Limit distribution: When sharing materials, limit circulation to enrolled students. Remind them that the material is protected by copyright and shouldn't be distributed further.
  • Mind the time: If you are posting lectures, readings, etc. to Brightspace/Sakai that contain copyrighted material, only make these available as long as necessary to meet the needs of your course. In the future, you may decide that fair use no longer to applies to some material.

Free-to-Use Essentials

Copyright at Shepherd

Information Technology Services maintains web pages to inform Faculty and students about copyrighted material.


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