Copyright is a protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. Protection is available to both published and unpublished works.
Unless your situation meets an exception outlined in the Copyright Act, you must get explicit permission from the copyright holder before you can lawfully re-use the work in any of the following ways:
The duration of copyright protection in the U.S. varies depending on the year of publication and other conditions.
Public Domain refers to creative works that are not protected by the copyright law. This can be a creative work for which the copyright has expired or any work created by a federal government employee. A copyright owner may also deliberately put the work in the public domain.
A work in the public domain may be used freely and without restriction. No permission is needed.
There are many collections of resources in the public domain or that require no attribution for use. Below are a few resources to consider.
Fair use is the doctrine that allows the use of copyrighted works under certain circumstances, such as criticism, news reports, teaching, and research, without seeking permission from the copyright holder. It is important to note that fair use is not a right, but a defense to copyright infringement.
This Understanding Fair Use web page can help you learn the four statutory factors that are used by the court to determine for fair use. The Center for Media and Social Impact (CMSI) offers the Codes of Best Practices for various disciplines and media such as the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts and the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video, among others.
The Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians (Circular 21, United States Copyright Office) provides basic information of the legislative provision dealing with reproduction of copyrighted materials by librarians and educators. Here are some highlights for teachers making copies:
For highlights of rules for reproducing music, recording and showing television programs, see the Educational Uses of Non-coursepack Materials from Stanford University.
Here are some ideas to more easily and legally use copyrighted materials in your class:
Reproducing a copyrighted work for teaching doesn’t necessarily protect you from copyright infringement. To evaluate whether a proposed use of a copyright work is a fair use, check the guidelines above. Try the Thinking Through Fair Use web tool to organize your thoughts and structure your reflections about the four fair use statutory factors; you can then make a more objective guess about whether your intended use of a copyrighted work is fair or not.
Yes, but the film or work you use must be part of a mediated instructional activity and you are showing it as part of ‘face-to-face” teaching viewed only by students enrolled in the course. This is covered by Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act. Keep in mind that you cannot use an unlawful copy to show the film/video.
The TEACH Act, 17 U.S.C. Section 110(2) enables the display of copyrighted materials for distance education by accredited, non-profit educational institution (like Butte College). Instructors can display any work in an amount comparable to that typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session. So, follow the fair use guidelines for educators in physical classrooms. Always keep in mind to use only a reasonable and limited portion of a copyrighted work. And whatever copyrighted works you post online, make sure they are only accessible by students who have enrolled in the course. Click here to learn more about the TEACH Act.
To avoid getting permissions when using videos as part of your teaching activities, you can consider using the Library’s video collections. The Butte College Library subscribes to Alexander Street’s Academic Video Online and Kanopy Streaming Video which have thousands of documentaries, shows, and feature length films. Instructors can embed a video in Canvas or post a link to show a video as class activities.
Showing copyrighted materials outside the class, such as in a workshop or during a campus event, is not regarded as fair use. You will need to get permission from the copyright owner or get a public performance rights (PPR) license for non-course related showing.
Purchasing a legal copy of a film, particularly commercial films, usually doesn’t include PPR. You will need to acquire a PPR license for a film to be shown in a non-classroom, non-instructional setting. The charge for a PPR license can go from $100-$1000 per film per screening. Check the film production studio, copyright holder, or distributor of the film you want to show to see whom to contact for PPR. You can also try PPR licensing agents, such as Swank Motion Pictures or Motion Picture Licensing.
Many Butte College instructors use open educational resources (OER) materials in class. These resources use Creative Commons licenses which allow people to create, alter, and remix content that is produced with specific permissions. Take a look at our guide to Open Educational Resources and Zero-Cost Textbooks to learn more about Creative Commons licenses. We also have a page of resources used in Butte College classes which will give an idea of what types or resources are available. If you would like more information about OER at Butte College or are considering adopting an OER resource, please contact Rachel Arteaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Use these resources to learn more about copyright, fair use, and open resources.
Thinking Through Fair Use Tool at UMN: "Is this fair use?" Use this form to analyze your situation.
Stanford University: Copyright and Fair Use
Stanford University: Public Domain
Cornell University: Detailed information about copyright terms and dates for various formats and in different countries
Coursera course: "Copyright for Educators and Librarians," a short course with videos and readings relevant to educators.
Creative Commons: About licenses
This web site presents information about copyright law. The Butte College Library makes every effort to assure the accuracy of this information but does not offer it as counsel or legal advice. Consult an attorney for advice concerning your specific situation.