Copyright Basics for Faculty, Staff and Students

Fair Use
Classroom Teaching
Course Packs
Requesting Permission
Library Reserves
Compliance for Students
Compliance for Faculty/Staff
Copyright on Campus Video


Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) promotes compliance with copyright law and understanding of the appropriate use of copyrighted works. Faculty, staff and students are expected to exercise a good faith effort to comply with the provisions of the OCCC Copyright Policy (Administrative Procedure #4003) as well as current U.S. Copyright law and any license or contract terms and provisions. Copyright applies to work in any form, whether print, digital, movies, etc. Some examples would be journal articles, book chapters, websites, movie clips, freely accessible Internet sites, etc.

There are three major exemptions to copyright law that are commonly used by educators: fair use, classroom teaching, and distance education (online education). Educational use does not allow copyright law to be disregarded. These exemptions make allowances in specific situations.

It is the decision of the individual who is using the work as to which exemption is applicable. It is the responsibility of all members of the OCCC community (faculty, staff and students) to understand the exemptions and to make a good faith determination that their use of a copyright protected work is authorized under one of the exemptions. A good faith determination means that the individual must understand the exemption they are selecting, be able to articulate it, and be able to reasonably apply it to their specific situation. If none of the exemptions are applicable, then permission should be requested for the use of the work.

The following is a brief guide to key copyright issues relating to these exemptions, FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) and links to further information and tutorials to help answer basic questions.

By no means is the Library or are the librarians copyright experts. If you still have questions concerning the appropriate use of any materials or whether something is copyright protected, it is best to err on the safe side and request the appropriate permissions.

Fair Use

Fair use is one of many statutory rights to use copyright-protected works for commentary, parody, news reporting, research and education. Fair use is more of a "legal defense" than an exception to copyright compliance. If someone claims copyright infringement against you and you assert a defense of fair use, then you must be able to prove it. To do so, Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976 lists four factors to help determine types of content usage that may be considered fair use. It also includes many other provisions allowing uses of works in the classroom, in libraries, and for many other purposes. Fair use depends on a reasoned and balanced application of the four factors: the purpose of the use; the nature of the work used; the amount used; and the effect of the use on the market for the original. No one factor alone dictates whether a particular use is indeed fair use.

Use the Checklist, available through Columbia University's Copyright Advisory Office, to help analyze the four fair use factors. It is advisable to keep a copy of your checklist for future reference to show that a reasonable effort was made to determine fair use. The checklist is used with permission from Dr. Kenneth Crews, Director, Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University.

Classroom Teaching

Under this exception (Section 110 (1)), educators may make performances and displays of all types of works in face-to-face teaching in a classroom or similar place at most educational institutions. It allows instructors and students to recite poetry, read plays, show videos, play music, project slides, and engage in many other performances and displays of protected works in the classroom setting. Please keep in mind that it only permits displays and performances in the classroom-not the making of copies or the posting of digital works on servers.

TEACH Act - Online Education

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act (Section 110 (2)) facilitates and enables the performance and display of copyrighted materials for distance education.

TEACH Requirements

In exchange for unprecedented access to copyright-protected material for distance education, TEACH requires that the academic institution meet specific requirements for copyright compliance and education. For the full list of requirements, refer to the TEACH Act.

In order for the use of copyrighted materials in online education to qualify for the TEACH exemptions, the following criteria must be met:

  • The institution must be an accredited, non-profit educational institution.
  • The use must be part of mediated instructional activities.
  • The use must be limited to a specific number of students enrolled in a specific class.
  • The use must either be for 'live' or asynchronous class sessions.
  • The use must not include the transmission of textbook materials, materials "typically purchased or acquired by students," or works developed specifically for online uses.
  • Only "reasonable and limited portions," such as might be performed or displayed during a typical live classroom session, may be used.
  • The institution must have developed and publicized its copyright policies, specifically informing students that course content may be covered by copyright, and include a notice of copyright on the online materials.
  • The institution must implement some technological measures to ensure compliance with these policies, beyond merely assigning a password. Ensuring compliance through technological means may include user and location authentication through Internet Protocol (IP) checking, content timeouts, print-disabling, cut & paste disabling, etc.

What TEACH Does Not Allow

The new exemptions under TEACH specifically do not extend to:

  • Electronic reserves, coursepacks (electronic or paper) or interlibrary loan (ILL).
  • Commercial document delivery.
  • Textbooks or other digital content provided under license from the author, publisher, aggregator or other entity.
  • Conversion of materials from analog to digital formats, except when the converted material is used solely for authorized transmissions and when a digital version of a work is unavailable or protected by technological measures.

It is also important to note that TEACH does not supersede fair use or existing digital license agreements. Please refer to Copyright Clearance Center for more information on the Teach Act.

Library Reserves

Materials placed on traditional reserve are available to students in print at the OCCC Library. The Library can place purchased materials on reserve without obtaining copyright permission. However, making multiple copies of such materials and placing those copies on reserve does require copyright permission, in most cases. Print copies of articles on reserve are limited to one semester or less. After one semester, copyright permission must be obtained for any copies of materials, journal articles, etc, placed on reserve. Contact a librarian or the Library Director if you wish to keep any article on reserve more than one semester.


Digital or electronic content, such as e-books, photographs on Web sites and electronic databases are subject to the same protections under the Copyright Act as non-digital, traditional or analog works. In addition, there are specific provisions relating to digital content in the 1998 amendment to the Copyright Act by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Many people assume that online content, or content found on Web sites, is not subject to copyright law and may be freely used and modified without permission. This is not true. Others think that online content is not protected unless it carries a copyright notice. This is not true either. Linking to a free Internet source (at its original URL) does NOT violate copyright and is, in fact, encouraged.

Copyright law protects almost all content on the Web or in any other digital or electronic form regardless of a copyright notice. Therefore, permission is most likely required to use that work beyond fair use.

Any copyright-protected content in a non-digital form is also protected in digital form. Examples of copyright-protected materials include:

  • Print and electronic books
  • Analog and digital musical recordings
  • Print and e-mail letters
  • Web sites
  • Embedded works in Web sites


Course Packs

Prior to 1991, it was believed that reproduction-primarily by photocopying-for academic coursepacks qualified as fair use. As a result, coursepack anthologies were often compiled and distributed without the permission of copyright holders. Two court decisions changed this thinking.

It is now well established that photocopying materials for academic coursepacks requires permission from the copyright holder or its agent. If your institution relies on external coursepack producers, it is critical to confirm that these vendors have acquired the appropriate copyright permission. Without this permission, both the copy shop and the academic institution that orders the coursepacks risk being found liable for copyright infringement.

E-coursepacks are online collections of journal, magazine or newspaper articles, book excerpts and other materials that a course instructor gathers as required or supplemental reading for students. E-coursepacks, like their paper-based counterparts, require copyright permission from the copyright holder or its agent.

The course instructor is responsible for obtaining the necessary rights to include copyrighted material in a coursepack. The coursepack producer (copy shop) could be held liable for producing (copying) any materials without the necessary permission. When requesting copyright permission for coursepack materials, be sure to include:

  • As much information as possible about your specific use (photocopy, intranet posting or use with a course management system),
  • The length of time you wish to use the materials, and
  • The number of students expected to have access to these works.

There may be alternatives for providing articles such as embedding permanent links to the articles within online course materials. For more information on this, contact a librarian.

For more information, explore these best practices.

Requesting Permission

It is the responsibility of the person wanting to use the copyrighted material to request permission for its use.

To determine the copyright ownership and to request permission to use specific material, please see the instructions on the University of Texas website.

Also see the instructions on Columbia University website.

Copyright Compliance for Faculty and Staff Members

If you need to use an article for your class, in a coursepack, for Library reserve, or any other use, copyright permission is required. The Library can obtain permission for you to use most all magazine, journal or newspaper articles. Permission must be obtained each semester. If you have any you would like to use, contact Barbara King, Director of Library Services, x7315 with as much information as possible on the article to be used, including publication title, article title, date, author, page numbers and ISSN.




Copyright on Campus Video has a new 6-minute animated educational video starring Jane the librarian that will walk viewers through the basics of copyright law, from public domain to fair use.