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A guide to help CSU faculty, staff, and students answer questions about copyright. THE INFORMATION ON THIS GUIDE DOES NOT SERVE AS LEGAL ADVICE.

Faculty FAQs

In the Classroom

Is there a formula for determining if my use is fair use? (10% of a work, so many minutes of a video, etc.)

While various organizations have created guidelines for how much of a work can be used and considered fair, none of these guidelines are recognized by the law. These guidelines can be helpful, but ultimately a fair use determination using the four factors (see the Fair Use tab) applied to every use is the best way to protect yourself. See the Fair Use tab for a checklist to guide your use.

Can I make multiple copies for my class?

There are exceptions for in-class instruction that allow teachers and students to perform or display works that are protected by copyright without infringement. However, these exceptions do not extend to copying material. Faculty should rely on fair use to determine if their copying is likely permissible.

Can I show a movie in my class?

There is an exception in copyright law that allows teachers to show movies in a face-to-face classroom, as long as the video was legally obtained. However, if the class is online, the allowed uses are much more limited. Instructors hoping to show a video in an online class must rely on the TEACH Act or fair use. For the TEACH Act to cover your use, you'll need to make sure the video is shown in a password-protected platform, like Blackboard, and that precautions are taken to prevent students from downloading the video (so streaming video is preferred). Only "reasonable and limited" portions can be shown online, so showing an entire film is unlikely to be permitted. It's considered best practice to only show what is absolutely necessary to accomplish the learning outcomes of the course.

Can I show other students' work in my class?

Keep in mind that students have copyright in the work they create in the classroom. It's best practice to get permission from the student to display or copy their work (as a good example for future classes, for example). This use of intellectual property also invokes FERPA rules, which require that the student consent to the use and have the ability to opt out.

Can I create a photocopied packet of articles for my students?

Recent court decisions have made this question complicated. However, best practices dictate the following actions:

  1. Consider providing electronic access to the content, rather than photocopied articles.
  2. Determine if the works are protected by copyright. They will be in most cases, unless they are in the public domain or openly licensed.
  3. If the works are protected, contact our Electronic Course Reserves staff to determine if and how the work can be made electronically available to students. See the Fair Use tab for methods of determining if your use is a fair use. You can also contact your department's librarian for more help.
  4. If discussions with ECR reveal that you cannot rely on an exception for your use or you want to be cautious, you can contact the copyright holder to ask permission for your specific use. Keep in mind that the original author of the work may no longer be the copyright holder (whether or not that person knows it), and that if permission is denied for your use, you may still be able to rely on fair use. See the Getting Permission tab for more guidance.

If I determine I can legally use a work, can I use it repeatedly across semesters?

It depends on how you determined your use was legal. If you were able to use a copyright law exception (see Copyright Exceptions for Teachers tab) or fair use, you should consider whether your continued use replaces the purchase of the content. Talk with the library about obtaining a license to the content going forward. If you got permission from the copyright holder to use the work, and your request specifically described continued use of the content, you can go forward with your use.

Can I copy my own article and give it to my students?

It depends. Did you publish the article? If so, when you published it, did your contract with the publisher require you to transfer copyright to them? If yes, then you'll need to refer to the parameters of the contract. Your ability to use the article in class is dictated by the same considerations of an article written by someone else - you will need to rely on a copyright exception, use fair use, or ask the publisher permission for your specific use.

Are materials online freely available for use?

Unfortunately, just because something is online does not mean it is free from copyright protections. Making matters worse, it can also be more difficult to determine the copyright holder of online materials to ask permission. If you would like to use online material for a class consider the following: 1) linking to material is almost always okay, and 2) online material that is openly licensed is usually much easier to use, as the permitted uses are much more clear and open. Looking for and using these materials can be a great option. See the Open Educational Resources tab for more information.

Scholarly Publishing

Do I own the copyright in my published work?

It depends. At least initially you owned the copyright in the work as soon as it was set in a tangible medium (and as long as it was original). However, when you published the work, you may have transferred the copyright to the publisher. To determine if this was the case, you'll want to check the contract you signed with the publisher before publication.

What can I do with my own published work?

It depends. See the question above to determine whether you own the copyright in that work. If you do, you can do whatever you wish with the content. If not, you are bound by the limitations of copyright.

How can I protect the copyright in my own work?

See this Author's Rights page from OSU for information about what rights you have as an author and how you can protect them. Keep in mind that fair use also allows users some explicit uses of your work (see the Fair Use tab).

What is an Open Access journal?

Open Access is a movement in the scholarly community to make scholarly works more freely available to others without paywalls and other limitations. Some argue that most research is funded using public monies, such as grants and public university funding, so the results should be made available to everyone. An open access journal allows authors to make their work open using a Creative Commons or other open license, although there may sometimes be an upfront cost associated with making the work open.

How can I publish my work Open Access?

There are many directories of open access journals in various fields. For a comprehensive list, see Cornell's research guide on Open Access. You may need to vet open access journals more carefully to ensure that they are not predatory (see below). One good starting place is the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

How can I tell if a journal is predatory?

See this page from Cornell's Vetting OA Journals Guide for some guidelines in evaluating open access journal options.