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Copyright: Using Copyrighted Works

Using copyrighted materials in class

Section 110 of copyright law allows educators and students to use copyrighted material in face-to-face teaching environments provided all of the following are true:

  • The use is part of regular teaching activities at a nonprofit educational institution
  • The material used relates to the course content being taught
  • Presentation takes place in a classroom or other setting dedicated to instruction
  • The material was obtained through legal means

Copyright infringement vs. plagiarism

Copyright infringement occurs when one or more of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder are violated. Violations may carry legal consequences.

Common examples of copyright infringement include:

  • borrowing significant portions of another's work in the creation of a new work
  • making and distributing unauthorized copies of a sound recording or video
  • publicly performing a copyrighted work without permission, even if the original work is credited.

Plagiarism involves using another's work without attribution, effectively passing it off as one's own.

Plagiarism is universally held to be an offense against ethics, integrity, and scholarship. In an educational context, it is a form of cheating, and the plagiarist may be penalized with a reduced or failing grade, suspension, or expulsion. Under certain circumstances, he or she may even face legal consequences.

It is possible to plagiarize without violating copyright. It is possible to violate copyright without plagiarizing. It is possible to do both at once.

Sharing readings

Sometimes you want students to read a particular item outside of the classroom setting. Instead of making copies yourself and distributing them, here are copyright-friendly alternatives:

  • Email a link or add a link to Moodle: Direct students to a freely available copy online or to a copy that the library has a license to view and download. Any journal article or ebook accessed through the library's online search tools is able to be shared
  • Place the item on electronic reserve: You can contact the library to see if the material you want to upload falls within fair use guidelines. If the request falls outside fair use, the library will explore options for obtaining copyright clearance
  • Contact the bookstore: Faculty members can email Michael Lippincott about purchasing custom course materials that students will then need to buy

Sharing audiovisual content or music

The library has resources to help you locate streaming video and audio materials students can use outside of class.

  • The Films Online guide contains links to video-streaming services with an emphasis on documentaries and educational films
  • The Audio Online guide contains links to audio-streaming services that offer classical, world, jazz, and vocal music recordings

Within a college setting, showing a film or playing an album outside of classroom instruction for a specific class is typically considered a public performance and is not an allowed use of privately purchased items. Some library-owned DVDs have been cleared for campus public performance; that information would appear in the "Local Note" section of the item's online catalog record.

Catalog record with "Cleared for campus public performance" highlighted

Placing materials on course reserve

Copyrighted materials made available via course reserve are for use in class, related course study outside of class, and course research. The use of copyrighted materials in all formats, including the creation, online delivery, and use of digital copies of copyrighted materials submitted for course reserve, must be in compliance with U.S. copyright law and the policy outlined herein.

What Typically Can be Placed on Course Reserve What Typically Cannot be Placed on Course Reserve
  • Entire works or sections of works that are in the public domain
  • Entire works or sections of works by the U.S. government
  • Entire books or scores in their original (hard copy) formatmade available within the library
  • Portions of books, journal issues, and other print resources that meet a reasonable determination of fair use.
  • Instructor’s notes, quizzes, tests, and other materials created for course instruction by the instructor
  • Films from the library's collection
  • Other materials for which the instructor holds the copyright
  • Copyrighted materials for which the instructor has obtained appropriate permission
  • Consumable works (e.g., workbooks)
  • Practice tapes
  • Commercial anthologies (or use of other publications to substantially replicate an anthology normally purchased by students)
  • Course packs
  • Items requested through interlibrary loan (ILL)
  • Works that replicate an excessive portion of a copyrighted work, including anthologies
  • Works prohibited by licensing restrictions


Additional guidelines for determining what can placed on reserve:
  • Request the least amount of a work necessary. In general, requesting small amounts of a copyrighted work favors fair use. All requests will be assessed by library staff using the Fair Use guidelines.
  • Print Journals - One article per issue. Exceptions must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Electronic Journals - Links to articles found in Musselman Library's online journals and databases can be added to Moodle.
  • Ebooks - Most ebooks in Musselman Library's collection can be linked to Moodle. Ebook license restrictions will be reviewed by library staff before requests are filled.
  • Entire works in the public domain can be put on electronic reserve (including works published before 1923 and most government publications)

Have a copyright question?

You can contact Musselman Library's Copyright Committee at

The committee will offer a recommendation based on your situation, but the committee does not provide legal advice or serve as a substitute for consultation with competent legal counsel on matters regarding compliance with copyright law.