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Copyright Basics for Faculty, Staff, and Students: FAQs & Tutorials

Common questions

Question 1: I am a professor so do I really have to concern myself with copyright law since all educational use is fair use?

Answer: Not all educational use is automatically fair use. The four factor fair use analysis must be applied to each use of a work to determine whether the use is fair or not.

Question 2: I want to post something on my own website, social media, a presentation or in the College's LMS. Do I need permission to do that?

Answer: Yes! Posting copyright-protected content on your website requires permission from the copyright holder or its agent.

Question 3: I want to show a video/DVD to my student club. Do I need to get permission from the copyright holder to show it? Does it make any difference if I own the DVD rather than just renting it? 

Answer: Showing a video/DVD to a group other than your family or a small circle of friends is considered a public performance under the U.S. copyright law. If the DVD is being shown for a class as part of the course content, then it might qualify for the fair use exemption. However, if the purpose is entertainment, permission is needed. It makes no difference if you own or rent the DVD.  Check the product or the packaging to find which movie company owns the copyright and gives permission. The Motion Picture Licensing Corporation might also be helpful.  Get the permission in writing.

Question 4: If I infringe on someone's copyright, who will find out? Everyone else is doing it so why shouldn't I?

Answer: If someone is infringing on another person's work, it is a violation of federal law. There could be fines ranging up to $150,000 per infringement and/or prison. The music and film industries vigorously protect their assets by taking people to court. As more writers, musicians, etc. become copyright savvy, they take real steps to protect their intellectual property.  Morally it is a question of respect for someone else's intellectual property.  Copyright law is flexible and allows exemptions such as fair use and educational use. If your use does not qualify for fair use, then ask for permission from the copyright holder to use their material.

Question 5: I found something on the internet that I want to copy (either paper or digital) and use in my class. If I find it online it's okay to use, right?

Answer: No! Before using any content on a website, you should determine its copyright status and, if necessary, obtain permission from the copyright holder or their agent.  Faculty members can request assistance from the Library in obtaining permission.

Question 6: Do items included in academic course packs require copyright permission?

Answer: Yes, absolutely!  Two famous court cases in the 1990s held that course packs of electronic or photocopied materials require copyright permissions prior to production.

Question 7: As a faculty member if I want to use an article for my class, in a course pack or any other way, fair use would cover that, right?

Answer: If you need to use an article for your class, in a course pack, for Library reserve, or any other use, copyright permission is required. The Library can obtain permission for you to use most magazine, journal or newspaper articles. Permission must be obtained each semester. If you have any you would like to use, contact Dana Tuley-Williams (dtuley@occc.edu), Systems Librarian, x7390 with as much information as possible on the article to be used, including publication title, article title, date, author, page numbers, ISSN, the number of students and whether the use will be in paper or electronic.

Question 8: What if I cannot locate the owner of the copyrighted material, or there is not enough time, or it costs too much?

Answer: The law does not recognize a "best efforts" exception. The copyright owner may file a federal lawsuit against anyone who reproduces his or her works without permission, even in cases where the user said it was too difficult, time-consuming or expensive to locate the owner.

Question 9: Will OCCC protect my identity or defend me if I'm sued for copyright violation?

Answer: No. OCCC will comply with any legal subpoenas.

Tutorial and Video Help

A tutorial from Brigham Young University's Copyright Licensing Office may help you understand copyright further. Its purpose is to assist faculty, staff, and students in learning more about copyright and the exemptions, such as fair use. The tutorial is in three interactive modules and may be completed all at once or individually, in about two hours. The modules include short videos, reference materials, case studies and a game.

Copyright.com has a six minute animated video starring Jane the librarian that walks viewers through the basics -- from public domain to fair use.