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Last Updated: Jul 16, 2014 URL: http://libraryguides.csp.edu/facultyguide Print Guide RSS Updates

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Understanding Copyright

Library Copyright Policy

Concordia Library is committed to providing material ethically and in accordance with U.S. Copyright Law and the Fair Use Provision.  Through this provision we are able to provide material through Reserves, E-reserves, and Interlibrary Loan (ILL.). 

Know the Law and Act Accordingly

Did you know that according to U.S. Copyright Law, teachers who copy and/or distribute the same article from term to term without obtaining permission from the rights holder are breaking the law – even if this is done electronically?  And did you know that this violation carries with it a penalty of up to $250,000 per incident?

Concordia faculty and staff using the created works of others should understand the basics of copyright law so they can make their own determination of how copyright law fits the intended use. Concordia St. Paul does not have a designated person or office that can provide specific and legal advice, but hopefully the information provided here can help students, faculty and staff understand and comply with copyright law, respecting the “intellectual property rights” of creators.

Classroom teaching and Copyright

The “Classroom Use Exemption” in U.S. Copyright Law (section 110 of the Copyright Law) allows for the performance or display of works (e.g. showing movies, playing music, reading a poem, acting out a drama, showing a book or artwork, etc.) in environments that:

  • are non-profit
  • feature face-to-face teaching activities
  • are located in a physical classroom or other location devoted to instruction (note that this does not cover online learning, but see “Blackboard Use” below)


For more detail about this, see here.

What about distributing or making copies?  To the extent that this can be done (see “Making Copies” below) this is due to the doctrine of “Fair Use” (section 107 of the copyright law), which is a set of provisions set forth by United States Copyright Law.

The Fair Use Provision

What is Fair Use all about?

Fair Use simply ensures that there are some kinds of uses that do not require permission or payment.  It attempts to protect the rights of creators while still allowing some uses that can benefit society as a whole, e.g. it can encourage scholarship, debate, creativity and innovation.

The 4 major guidelines for determining Fair Use are the following:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work (e.g., you cannot copy workbooks at all)
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

To invoke Fair Use all four guidelines must be considered.

Making Copies

In general, making multiple copies of an article for your class – or putting the article up on Blackboard (see more below) – *only for one semester* constitutes fair use.  Unless copyright permission is obtained for future uses, this item should not become a regular part of your class syllabus.

As a rule of thumb, if the kind of copying you want to do is not specifically prohibited by the Fair Use provisions, it is likely to be determined fair under Fair Use.  Here are some examples (there are others) of other common “do nots”:

  • Do not make multiple copies of a short poem, article, story, or essay from the same author more than once in a class term or make multiple copies from the same collective work or periodical issue more than three times a term.
  • Do not make multiple copies of works more than nine times in the same class term.
  • Do not make a copy of "consumable" materials, such as workbooks.

Where can I find more information for particular cases?

  • This tool helps you determine if your particular use of media (video, music, etc.) is acceptable.
  • This tool helps you use the 4 major Fair Use guidelines to determine if any particular use is likely to be deemed fair (i.e. that a court would decide this)
  • For guidance on working with multimedia presentations (PowerPoint, etc.) see Guidelines for Multimedia Presentations below
  • To determine if a work is in the public domain (i.e. it is not copyright-protected), this tool is helpful, or for a more detailed explanation of public domain, go here.
  • For more information about requesting permission for copyright-protected works, go here.
  • For more helpful detail on the Fair Use guidelines click here.

Library Reserves Policy

What can I place on reserve and e-reserve?

  • Books or AV material owned by Concordia Library (no semester limit)
  • Books or AV material owned by Concordia faculty or staff (no semester limit)
  • Articles in print form or on e-reserve from journals owned by Concordia Library* (no semester limit)
  • Articles in print form from journals owned by faculty or staff* (no semester limit)
  • Articles on e-reserve from journals owned by faculty or staff* (one semester only)
  • One poem or short story from an anthology on e-reserve (one semester only)
  • Old exams and answer keys created by the professor (no semester limit)
  • Student papers used as example papers (with the written permission of the student)

*Chapters and articles may not exceed 10% of the originating book or journal.

What is not allowed on reserve?

  • Consumables, for example course packs and workbooks.
  • Books or journals from other libraries
  • Chapters or articles from books or journals owned by other libraries (i.e. not owned by Concordia library nor a Concordia faculty or staff member)


If you are unsure if the material is allowed on reserve, please email csplibadmin@csp.edu, call the reference desk, or stop by and talk to a librarian.

How do I place an item on reserve?

Please fill out this form and email it to csplibadmin@csp.edu. Or stop by the library and fill out the form in person. Please allow at least 24 hours for your request to be processed.  See the Course Reserves Policies and Procedures for additional information about course reserves.

When do I need permission from the copyright holder?

Instances where materials require permission include but are not limited to when:

  • a copy of an article from a source not owned by the library is needed on e-reserve for longer than one semester
  • a chapter from a book personally owned by faculty member but not the library is needed on e-reserve for longer than one semester
  • chapters or articles that exceed 10% of the originating book or journal
  • more than one poem or short story from a single anthology is needed for e-reserve
  • student papers placed on reserve as examples always will need the written permission of the student

How do I obtain permission?

  • The library will provide information on how to obtain permission, but will not process a permission request for the professor. Obtaining permission can take four to six weeks so please plan accordingly.
  • Fees related to gaining permission will be paid by either the faculty member or their department.
  • Once permission is granted, proof of copyright permission must be provided along with the item intended for reserve.


N.B. An individual does not necessarily own the copyright to their own works. In these circumstances, they cannot grant copyright permission of those works. Please make sure copyright permission is obtained through the proper channels. Proof of the permission will need to accompany the item to go on reserve.

What if I cannot locate the copyright holder?

This page from Columbia University offers some good suggestions of what steps to take if you cannot locate the copyright holder.

Blackboard (online learning)

Based on the TEACH Act of 2002, everything that is permissible in a face-to-face classroom is allowed for online learning as well, provided that:

  • the educational institution’s copyright policies accurately describe, and promote compliance with, existing copyright law
  • students are informed that materials used in their course may have copyright protection and are for classroom use only
  • reasonable technological measures are taken to prevent retention and unauthorized dissemination of copyrighted works outside of class sessions
  • it is a legitimate copy of the copyrighted work that has been purchased (owned by Concordia library, faculty, or staff)

Guidelines for Multimedia Presentations

“Multimedia” refers to the many different mediums that computer and web pages can utilize simultaneously, including text, graphics, audio and video.  PowerPoint presentations would be a prominent example of a multimedia presentation.

Note that there is much copyright-free media that can be located on various web-sites (see here, for example).  When using such materials, cite as the author requests (if there is no request, make sure the author’s name, the item’s web address, and the Creative Commons license are noted)

Copyright-protected media are a different matter.  The following is based on the Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia, which does not have the power of law, but is meant to give courts a sense of how lawmakers intend fair use to be interpreted.  A more recent code of best practices has also been produced by the Center for Social Media.

When using copyright-protected materials in a multimedia presentation for a class, students and teachers:

  • can use what is necessary (and not more than this) for them to achieve their learning goal
  • should have a statement like the following at the beginning of their presentation: “the audio and video clips in this presentation are used under fair use guidelines and are restricted from further use”. 
  • should give credit (full bibliographic citation) for the specific clips of media at the end of the project.  This should include the year the media was first published, and the name of the copyright owner, and a copyright symbol. 

In addition, regarding the continuing use of the presentation, students and teachers :

  • should not use the presentation in class beyond two years without obtaining written permission from the sources used to allow for further instructional use (a copy can be retained beyond two years for a portfolio, unpaid workshop, or presentation to peers)
  • may want to secure copyright permissions ahead of time if they think that their class project might eventually make its way outside of the classroom (e.g. be uploaded to an internet web site).

Watch a short video about the basics of copyright.

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