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Stitt Library / Research Help: How-tos and the research process / Copyright and Fair Use for Faculty
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1. Is the work protected by copyright?

Works that are in the public domain are not covered by copyright and can be shared freely. The public domain includes all works that are past their period of copyright protection, that have never been covered by copyright, or that have been donated to the public domain by their creators. See the Public Domain PDF and the Copyright FAQ and Copyright Resources pages for more information.

If you created the work yourself and have not signed the copyright over to another party (like a publisher) you are free to share the work however you would like.

2. Is there a specific exception in copyright law that covers my use?

The U.S. Copyright Law provides several exceptions to the exclusive rights of copyright holders, including some uses in the classroom and in online teaching (via the TEACH Act). These exceptions tend to be narrow, but if your use fits within them, you are free to use the resource without permission or payment.

See the Copyright in the Classroom PDF and the Copyright FAQ and Copyright Resources pages for more details on these exceptions.

3. Is there a license that covers my use?

Library subscriptions

Stitt Library has purchased and subscribed to a large set of databases, journals, and e-books that you can freely share with your classes by linking to them from your class portal. Because we have paid for these resources, the license we have with the publishers and distributors covers this kind of use.

Instructions for creating a link to an article from one of our subscription databases on your course portal page are available here.

Use Sophi Search to search across all our databases to find the article or resource you want to share. More information on using Sophi Search can be found here. Contact a librarian if you have trouble finding a specific resource and we will purchase an electronic copy for the library, if possible.


Annual Academic Copyright License

Austin Seminary purchases an Annual Academic Copyright License through the Copyright Clearance Center. This is an umbrella license that gives our faculty, students, and staff the right to share copyrighted materials that fall under the license, limited to terms set by individual publishers. More detail on the license program is available in the Annual Academic Copyright License PDF.

Use this link to see if your resource is covered by the Annual Academic Copyright License

4. Is my use covered by fair use?

Fair use is a powerful, but sometimes confusing part of U.S. Copyright Law that allows the use of copyrighted material without permission or payment. To determine if your use falls under fair use, you will need to weigh four different factors:

  • The purpose of the use. (Is it for profit or for non-profit educational purposes?)
  • The nature of the copyrighted work. (Factual works are more likely to fall under fair use than fictional works.)
  • The amount you want to use. (Always use just the amount you need to make your point -- the less you use the more likely it is to be fair use.)
  • The effect of your use on the market for the original. (Is the original available for purchase? Will your use stop people from buying the original work?)

Most importantly of all: Does what you want to do with the material constitute a transformative use that helps you make a new point beyond the intention of the original author?

See the Fair Use PDF and the Copyright FAQ and Copyright Resources pages for more information about fair use. The Copyright Decision Flow Charts under Quick Links above can help walk you through Austin Seminary’s policy on fair use.

5. Do I need permission from the copyright owner for my use?

If your planned use of copyrighted material is not covered by any of the exemptions above, we may have to seek permission from the copyright owner. Contact Kristy to talk through your options.

* These steps come from "A Framework for Analyzing any Copyright Problem" (originally created by Kevin Smith & Lisa Macklin and distributed as part of Duke University’s Copyright for Educators and Librarians online course.)


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