This guide provides legal information but does not constitute legal advice.
It is important to note that protecting against plagiarism does not necessarily guard against copyright infringement. When copying or otherwise using large portions of a copyrighted work, you still must determine whether a fair use argument can be made. If not, you will need to get permission to use the work; simply attributing the source of the material is not sufficient.
Copyright is a set of protections afforded to the author of an original work. In the United States, copyright arises from Article I, §8 of the United States Constitution, which allows Congress "[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." The specific laws governing copyright are found primarily in 17 U.S.C. §101ff., as well as court rulings that interpret this legislation.
While using a copyrighted work without permission for educational purposes is often acceptable, educational use is no guarantee. If you want to use the work of other authors in your teaching, whether it be in a physical classroom or in an online teaching environment, you may need permission from the copyright holder.
To determine whether this is necessary, you should first determine whether the work is protected by copyright law. If it is not, you may use it without permission. If it is protected by copyright law, you may still be able to use the work without permission if you can make a fair use argument. If the work is protected by copyright law and you cannot make a fair use argument, then you will need to seek permission.
You should consider copyright law whenever you are using someone else's work in your teaching, whether it be for a course reading, lecture content, or supplementary materials in the course management system. Remember that in a digital age, using a work ("copying") can include, but is not limited to: photocopying; scanning (to print, to file, or to email); printing out; making a PDF; copying, downloading, or uploading a digital file; and converting analog format to digital format. The TEACH Act, 17 U.S.C. §110(2), outlines the requirements for online and distance teaching environments.
Linking to online content does not constitute making a copy, so you should favor links wherever possible.
You do not need permission to use work in several cases:
If none of the above cases applies, you still may be able to use the work in question if you can make a fair use argument.
If your usage does not meet the above criteria you may not use the work without permission. At this point your options include: