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Copyright on Campus

Sample Instructor Statements

Copyright laws and fair use policies protect the rights of those who have produced the material.

The copies in this course has been provided for private study, scholarship, or research. Other uses may require permission from the copyright holder. The user of this work is responsible for adhering to copyright law of the U.S. (Title 17, U.S. Code).  

The TEACH Act requires a copyright notice to be on online course websites.  The TEACH Act Toolkit offers the following sample copyright notice:

The materials on this course Web site are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated.

Teaching Using Copyrighted Materials

If the work you wish to use is copyrighted and not covered by a license or conditions of use that have already you agreed to, you have the following options:

  • Link to the work
  • Determine if the work is in the Public Domain or
  • Use an exception to copyright law such as the teaching exceptions for Performance and Display as outlined Section 110 of copyright law or for these exceptions as amended by the Teach Act
  • Determine if a license such as a Creative Commons license covers your use
  • Fair use (Section 107) (see below)
  • Obtain permission from the copyright owner or license the work

If you are uncertain about any of these steps, please contact the Library for assistance.

What is copyright?

Copyright is the section of federal law that stipulates what control authors have over their original works. It is specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, which states:

Congress shall have the right to [...] 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

What's protected

§ 102 of U.S. copyright law grants all "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression" copyright protection. Categories works which are specially mentioned include:

  • literary works
  • musical works, including any accompanying words
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

How long does it last?

  • Works created on or after January 1, 1978: life of the author + 70 years. Works made for hire: 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter
  • Unpublished anonymous or pseudonymous works, or unpublished works when the date of the author is unknown: 120 years from creation
  • Works created before January 1, 1978: refer to this chart created by the Cornell University Copyright Information Center

What are copyright holder's rights?

The entire text of U.S. Code Title 17 - Copyrights is available through Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute. The following sections are especially relevant to higher education:

Copyright Resources

Useful Government sources: 


Consult the following sources for information copyright in general: