This page contains information and links that will enable faculty and staff to use copyrighted materials within the boundaries of federal copyright law. The use of copyrighted materials--including audio/video tapes and electronic documents from the Internet--for educational purposes does not exempt users from provisions of copyright law. However, the Fair Use provision (sections 107 through 118 of the Copyright Act) does allow a degree of latitude for educators who follow certain guidelines. The links below will lead to explanations of Fair Use guidelines. Note, however, that the Fair Use provision is open to interpretation. Only a court can decide if an individual situation is covered by Fair Use.

Copyright law is, in some cases, still unsettled regarding the limitations on electronic usage--for example, linkage from one Web site to parts of another. The links below provide information about the expanding case law regarding electronic copyrighted materials.


Difference Between Copyright and Plagiarism

Copyright is a matter of law whose intent is to protect original authors from loss rights and revenues of the material they created. Merely citing the source of the copyrighted material does not protect the use from copyright violations. The user must obtain permission from the copyright holder in order to quote from, copy, or distribute the original work.

Plagiarism, on the other hand, is a matter of academic and professional ethics. Plagiarism is the use of another's material, whether or not that material is copyrighted, without citing the original author. If the plagiarizer uses copyrighted material and makes copies for distribution without permission, then the plagiarizer may also have violated copyright law.


Copyright Quiz

You might be a copyright violator and not know it. Test yourself with the following scenarios (adapted from a Twin Cities Campus Library newsletter dated December 17, 2001)

1. I just found a great article pertaining to the central topic of the class I will teach this evening. Would I violate copyright if I made enough copies for the entire class?

You would avoid copyright violation only if your copies could be classified as Fair Use. Educational use alone does not constitute Fair Use. A number of factors come into play when determining Fair Use. Copying text is more likely to be considered Fair Use if the following factors apply.

  • Purpose and Character of the Use
    • Copies are for nonprofit, educational use.
    • Distribution is restricted to students.
    • Copying without permission is one-time only in a single class.
  • Nature of the Work Copied
    • Copyrighted work is nonfiction.
    • Copyrighted work has been published.
    • Copyrighted work is out of print.
  • Amount and Portion Used
    • The smaller the proportion of the copyrighted work, the more acceptable the copying.
  • Effect on Potential Marketing of the Copyrighted Work
    • Copies are not a substitute for purchase of original work (thus depriving author of revenue)
~ Remember to provide a full reference on all copies you distribute ~

2. I am teaching the same course next semester. May I use the same article I used in my current class?

No, not without permission from the copyright holder. An important provision of Fair Use is one-time use. If you want to use the material again, you have time to obtain permission from the copyright holder.

3. I did not sumit my course pack materials to the bookstore in time to meet the deadline. I am told that the bookstore need 6 to 8 weeks to obtain copyright permissions. This means that my course pack will not be ready in time for the class. May I have Kinko's make the copies and the sell copies to the students?

No. A 1989 lawsuit for copyright infringement cost Kinko's nearly $2 million in damages. As a result, Kinko's (and other reputable printing businesses) will not duplicate materials unless copyright permissions are provided first. Furthermore, you would be liable if you distributed illegally-copied materials.

4. Where can I learn more information about Copyright and Fair Use?

Check out the links below.

Links to Copyright Information

N.B. By providing links to other sites, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota does not guarantee, approve or endorse the information or products available at these sites.


U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright and Fair Use

Stanford University Libraries

Fair Use

U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright in an Electronic Environment

North Carolina Public Schools

Regents Guide to Understanding Copyright & Educational Fair Use

University of Georgia System, Office of Legal Affairs

Copyright in the New World of Electronic Publishing

William Strong, of Kotin, Crabtree, and Strong, Attorneys at Law
Journal of Electronic Publishing University of Michigan Press