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Copyright Resources

Copyright Resource Guide

COCC's General Policies and Procedures states, "The College will comply with laws relating to copyrighted material. Use of College-owned equipment to circumvent the law is contrary to College policy, and such use is solely the responsibility of the individual who violates the law." (See G-31-10.4 Copyright.)

What are these laws, and how can you make sure you're in compliance? This guide explains common copyright-related terms, like Fair Use and Open Licensing, and offers tips for selecting and using copyrighted materials in instructional settings.

Other COCC resources on copyright:

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What Is Copyright?

As defined by the Cornell Legal Information Institute, copyright is "The exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something."

The U.S. Copyright Act, (codified at 17 U.S.C. §§ 101 - 810), is federal legislation which protects the writings of authors. Changing technology has led to an ever expanding understanding of the word "writings." The Copyright Act now reaches architectural design, software, the graphic arts, motion pictures, and sound recordings and more....

Under § 102, copyright protection exists in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. 

By default all books, articles, videos, images, and other materials you're likely to use in an instructional setting are under copyright with all rights reserved. The copyrights might be held by the original authors, or the authors might have sold them to a publisher. Official copyright registration is not necessary for a work to be protected by copyright law.

Linking and Embedding

Linking to or embedding materials hosted legally on another website does not infringe on copyrights. (See Linking to Copyrighted Materials from the Digital Media Law Project.) You may share links to free websites, eBooks in the library catalog, and full-text articles in our research databases without concern. You may also embed videos from our streaming video platforms into Blackboard courses, if the platform provides the option.

However, reproducing or making derivatives of these materials might infringe on copyrights, even in educational settings. Scanning books, digitizing videos, copying text into course modules, or downloading files to share with students must be done carefully under Fair Use or TEACH Act guidelines.

Fair Use

The doctrine of Fair Use allows the use of copyrighted materials for teaching, scholarship, and more. The courts evaluate fair use through multiple factors.

Chapter 1, Section 107 of the Copyright Act states:

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

  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;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

The four factors above are used by the courts to determine Fair Use. They indicate that reproduction is generally permissible for works that...

  • Are used for educational purposes
  • Are unpublished, or factual or descriptive in nature
  • Are small or noncritical parts of a complete work
  • Have a small effect on the marketability of the original work.

None of the four factors is conclusive. The weight given to each one varies from case to case.

If you're unsure what constitutes permissible copying, see the Guidelines for Classroom Copying of Books and Periodicals agreed to by the Association of American Publishers and The Author's League of America and explained by the University of Texas Libraries. These guidelines set minimum standards for meeting the copyright law requirements.


The TEACH Act of 2002 addresses the use of digitized materials in online instruction. While Fair Use has very broad criteria, the TEACH Act specifies more restrictive criteria instructors can use to ensure their use of materials in online classroom environments will not infringe on copyrights.

The Copyright Resources: TEACH Act page by Portland Community College lays out the criteria for using materials under the law. The resources below address the requirements at the institution level.

Criterion Resource
You are teaching at an accredited, nonprofit educational institutional or governmental body. COCC is a public institution accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. See Accreditation.
You have an institutional policy that addresses the use of copyrighted materials and promotes compliance with U.S. copyright law. The General Policies and Procedures manual covers this in G-31-10.4 Copyright.
Your institution provides educational resources that accurately describe copyright rights and responsibilities. This guide satisfies the criterion. (Permalink:
Your institution has implemented reasonable measures to prevent retention of the works for longer than the class session. COCC restricts access to Canvas courses to authenticated students currently enrolled in the class. Access is revoked after the end of the term. 
Your institution has implemented reasonable measures to prevent unauthorized further dissemination by the recipients. The Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources policy states that students may access only the computing resources they are authorized to use and must adhere strictly to copyright laws. Violation of the policy may result in the loss of network access, disciplinary action, and/or referral to appropriate law enforcement authorities.

Instructors are responsible for complying with the remaining criteria. If you don't meet the requirements to use a material under the TEACH Act, you might still be able to use it in your online course under the terms of Fair Use.

Characteristics of the Work

  • If the work is a non-dramatic literary or musical work, you can post entire works.
  • If the work is a dramatic literary or musical work, you can only post "limited and reasonable" segments.
  • The work was not created as a digital educational work. If it was, the TEACH Act does not apply.
  • The work is not a textbook, course pack, or other commercial educational work. If this is a title students would otherwise be required to purchase for your class, it will not be covered by the TEACH Act.

Use of the Work

  • The work is an integral part of the class session.
  • The work is part of systematic mediated instructional activities. This means you will facilitate the students' use of the work.
  • The work is directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content.
  • You will display an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of an in-person classroom setting.
  • You will only make the work available to students during the relevant instructional module. It should not be available for the entire length of the course.
  • The work will only be available to students who are enrolled in the course.

Other Conditions

  • The work was lawfully made and acquired.
  • There is a notice accompanying the work notifying students that the work may be protected by copyright.
  • There is no reasonably priced streaming version of the work available to the institution. Contact the Collection Development & Acquisitions Librarian, Cat Finney (, to explore electronic availability of a title through the library.

Creative Commons Attribution License

The content of this section is a modification of "TEACH Act" by Portland Community College, licensed under CC-BY.

Open Licensing

Many copyright holders choose to apply open licenses to their works. These licenses give downstream users permission to use a work in specific ways, like sharing, editing, and remixing with other works to create new ones.

An open license does not mean the original authors forfeited all copyright protection. These licenses will have very specific permissions and conditions, like requiring attribution. See Creative Commons Licenses for examples of common licenses you'll find applied to Open Educational Resources (OERs).

You can use openly licensed works in your courses without reaching out to copyright holders for permission, and you can often make them available to your students for free forever.

  • Unlike library eBooks, students won't lose access to OERs after they leave the college.
  • Unlike subscription services like Cengage Unlimited, the license to access OERs will never expire. (Even if the authors change the license on a work later, the terms of the license at the time you used the work cannot be retracted.)
  • And unlike links out to free resources on the web, the materials won't disappear if the original creator takes them down. You can download, store, and share your own copy.

Most OERs are available for free online, and some can be ordered in print. If a bound copy isn’t already available for purchase, you can upload a PDF to a print-on-demand service like Lulu so students can order copies.

Creative Commons License
This guide by COCC Barber Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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