What is copyright?
Copyright is a vague and ambiguous territory in which many people are nervous to tread. The more informed you are about copyright, the better you'll be able make choices about how and what copyrighted works to include in your course content.

Remember that copyright laws were created for the express purpose, "
to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for a limited Time to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" (Constitution). Copyright does not mean that intellectual property owners are granted perpetual property rights. Intellectual property is not considered merchandise. However, creators are acknowledged to be due some recompense for their creativity and effort. Thus, copyright laws give creators the temporary, exclusive right to reproduce (copy) their work and distribute those copies, publicly perform or display the work (e.g. paintings or music), or create something else based on that work (e.g. fan fiction). If someone else wants to copy, perform, or base their own work on another's, that person must get permission. And the copyright owner can charge for that permission.

Note that the rights are temporary. Copyright terms are very long at the moment (life of the author + 70 years) but eventually, works will go into the public domain where they will be free to use. In the meantime, fair use helps balance things out by giving those who intend to use the work to "promote the progress of science and useful arts", a way of doing so without asking permission. And Creative Commons allows people to give permission for people to use their work.
Subject Specialist
Picture: Karen Kunz

Karen Kunz
Librarian (Engineering, Copyright, Grants)
Tel: 541-885-1769

Recommended Approach
  • Assume that the material you are interested in using is probably copyrighted, even if you don't see a symbol
    • After 1978, you do not need to put a copyright symbol ( © ) on publications. Every publication is copyrighted at the point of being put into a tangible form
  • Consider whether the material you are interested in could be in the public domain
    • Because of the various changes in copyright law, determining whether an item is in the public domain takes some work -- but it can be worth it
  • Check to see if (or actively search for) material that has a Creative Commons license that allows you to use it
    • Be certain to look for the small print! If the copyright holder requests you to attribute the material to him/her -- do so
  • If the material is not in the public domain, perform a Fair Use Analysis.
    • Fair Use is the most useful method of determining your ability to use material
  • If your analysis results are not clear, consider the options presented by educational exemptions
    • This works only for classroom presentations. However, you can display a copyrighted work (or even perform plays or music) without worry about copyright
  • If in doubt, secure permission
    • The Oregon Tech Libraries spend a lot of money purchasing rights for you to make copies of the articles -- take advantage of it
    • Write to the copyright holder. Often times they will give permission to students to use their material without cost
    • Purchase permission. The Oregon Tech Libraries can help you find out how much money it would take to do so
KF2995 .C74 2012   
Copyright law for librarians and educators
KF2995 .R87 2004   Complete copyright
KF2995 .F53 2004   The copyright handbook: how to protect & use written works
KF3022.Z9 F57 2004 The public domain
KF3030.1 .L56 2003 Copyright law on campus
KF3050 .T36 2001   How to use images legally
T210 .S53 2000       Patent, trademark, and copyright searching on the Internet
Last Updated: 11/05/2019