Copyright Basics for Academic Community

This is a guide on the use of copyrighted material in an academic environment.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a legal right, given exclusively to the creator/originator (or assignee) to make further copies for publication and public performance.

What is fair use?

Fair use provisions of the copyright law allow for limited copying or distribution of published works without the author's permission in some cases. Examples of fair use of copyrighted materials include quotation of excerpts in a review or critique, or copying of a small part of a work by a teacher or student to illustrate a lesson.
If the copy is used for teaching at a non-profit institution, distributed without charge, and made by a teacher or students acting individually, then the copy is more likely to be considered as fair use. In addition, an interpretation of fair use is more likely if the copy was made spontaneously, for temporary use, not as part of an "anthology" and not as an institutional requirement or suggestion.
Fair use recognizes that certain types of use of other people's copyright protected works do not require the copyright holder's authorization. In these instances, it is presumed the use is minimal enough that it does not interfere with the copyright holder's exclusive rights to reproduce and otherwise reuse the work.

Examples of Fair Use include:
  • Quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment.
  • Quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work for illustration or clarification of the author's observations.
  • Reproduction of material for classroom use where the reproduction was unexpected and spontaneous–for example, where an article in the morning's paper is directly relevant to that day's class topic.
  • Use in a parody of short portions of the work itself.
  • A summary of an address or article, which may include quotations of short passages of the copyrighted work.

License Agreements and Guidelines for Fair Use of online databases:

All electronic resources available through the campus network are governed by license agreements. The licenses for electronic resources impose two types of restrictions on its usage, namely i) who can use these resources; and ii) how the resources can be used.

The first restriction defines authorized users for e-resources, which generally includes students, faculty, staff and onsite visitors of a subscribing institution. The second restriction deals with how these resources can be used. It is the responsibility of individual users to ensure that e-resources are used for personal, educational and research purposes only.
  1. Systematic or programmatic downloading, retention, and printing are prohibited. For example, a user cannot download entire issue of a journal or print out several copies of the same article.
  2. Electronic distribution of content is also restricted although the specific restrictions vary from publisher to publisher. It may be permissible to forward an article to another colleague in in the same institution by email, however, transmitting an article to someone outside of the institution, or to a large group of recipients, a mailing list, or an electronic bulletin board, is not allowed.
  3. Faculty in a university can print out a copy of an article from an electronic journal and include it in their course pack. However, multiple copies should not be made for circulation. Copyright laws protect published material in any format so that it cannot be copied except in accordance with fair use. Providing access to material for educational purposes falls within the realm of fair use.
  4. Subscribed e-resource should be used for educational and research purposes and not for commercial purposes.
  5. Providing electronic links to the licensed resources on the course web pages is permitted but it is not permissible to posted a PDF of an article on a website.
  6. However, a researcher can post a pre-print of an article written by himself.
  7. As with any kind of scholarly communication, a researcher can use phrases or quotes from other articles and cite the source of information. However, a researcher is prohibited from using large chunk of information (paras and chapters) from an article or from a chapter in a book.
  8. Publishers track the use of their electronic resources. Misuse, if any, is notified to the subscribing institution with details of kinds of violations and institution is expected to take action. The publisher also suspends the access to e-resource pending suitable action by subscribing institution. The access is stopped not only for journals where license agreement was violated but for all journals by the same publisher. Moreover, the access is suspended not only for the individual violator but for the entire institution.

Fair Use Chart for Faculty and Students:

Sl.No Work or Materials to be used for Educational Purposes Fair Use Restrictions for Face-to-Face Teaching Illegal Use without Explicit Permission from Creator/Author
1. Chapter in a book Single copy for teacher for research, teaching, or class preparation.
Multiple copies (one per student per class) okay if material is (a) adequately brief, (b) spontaneously copied, (c) in compliance with cumulative effect test.
Copyright notice and attribution required.
Multiple copies used again and again without permission.
Multiple copies to create anthology.
Multiple copies to avoid purchase of textbook or consumable materials.
2. Newspaper/magazine article Same as above.
Multiple copies of complete work of less than 2,500 words and excerpts up to 1,000 words or 10% of work, whichever is less.
For works of 2,500-4,999 words, 500 words may be copied.
Same as above
3. Prose, short story, short essay, Web article
Same as above
4. Poem Same as for first item.
Multiple copies allowed of complete poem up to 250 words -- no more than two printed pages.
Multiple copies of up to 250 words from longer poems.
Same as above
5. Artwork or graphic image -
chart, diagram, graph, drawing, cartoon, picture from periodical, newspaper, or book, Web page image
Same as for first item.
No more than 5 images of an artist/photographer in one program or printing and not more than 10% or 15% of images from published collective work, whichever is less.
Same as first item
Incorporation or alteration into another form or as embellishment, decoration for artistic purposes for other than temporary purposes.
6. Motion media -
film and videotape productions
Single copy of up to 3 minutes or 10% of the whole, whichever is less.
Spontaneity required.
Multiple copies prohibited. Incorporation or alteration into another form as embellishment for artistic purposes for other than temporary purposes prohibited.
7. Music
-sheet music, songs, lyrics, operas, musical scores, compact disk, disk, or cassette taped recordings
Single copy of up to 10% of a musical composition in print, sound, or multimedia form. Same as immediately above
8. Broadcast programs Single copy of off-air simultaneous broadcast may be used for a period not to exceed the first 45 consecutive calendar days after recording date.
Use by only individual teachers.
Copyright notice required.
Same as immediately above.
May not be done at direction of superior.
May not be altered.


Guidelines for protecting works created by faculty and students are also available from the library.
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