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Mohave Community College Libraries

Copyright FAQ's


1. When should I get permission to use a copyrighted work?

The first step in every permission situation is to determine whether you need to ask for permission. Determining whether to ask for permission depends on two questions:

  • Is the material protected under law?
  • Would your use of the material violate the law?

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to answer these questions with a definitive “yes” or “no.” Sometimes, you may have to analyze the risk involved in operating without permission.

If a creative work is protected under copyright law, an unauthorized use may still be legal. This is because there are exceptions to each of the laws protecting creative works. For example, under copyright law, a principle known as “fair use” permits you to copy small portions of a work for certain purposes such as scholarship or commentary.

2. Fair use means that if I’m using it for educational purposes, I can do whatever I want with a copyrighted work, right?

The "fair use" limitation found in 17 USC § 107 is not defined in the statute and does not provide clearly defined criteria for determining what is or is not a fair use. Rather it identifies four factors that should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in order to determine if a specific use is "fair". These factors, which should be considered together when determining fair use, are:

  • Factor 1: Purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
  • Factor 2: Nature of the copyrighted work.
  • Factor 3: Amount or substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  • Factor 4: Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Use of copyright works for non-profit educational purposes does not automatically give you permission to copy and distribute other people's work.

  • While many educational uses may be fair, you will need to evaluate your use each time you are reproducing, showing, or displaying copyrighted material.  See the Fair Use Guidelines page for more information.

3. To what extent am I personally liable as a faculty member, student, or employee of Mohave Community College for violating copyright law?

Both the College and the individual may be liable in a civil suit for willful infringement of U.S. Copyright Law.

  • Section 504 (c) (2) of the law states that willful infringement may result in damages of up to $150,000. Section 504 (c)(2) further states that damages may be remitted (i.e., not enforced) under the following conditions:
    • The infringer must prove in court that they reasonably thought the use in question fell under fair use; however, this would not necessarily prevent the copyright holder from filing a lawsuit or subsequent attorney and court fees.

4. Can I scan course readings and put them up on my personal website for students to read?

No, not without permission of the copyright owner. Materials on the web are accessible to everyone:

  • By doing this, you would be distributing a copyrighted work without permission.
  • Nor would this fall under fair use since it would affect the market value of the work (see fair use factor 4).

5. If a work is copyrighted and I want to use it in my class, what do I have to do?

Permission from the copyright owner is required if you want to distribute copies to your students. You can put it on reserve in the library without getting permission from the copyright owner.

7. What if I use Canvas, Schoology or another Learning Management System (LMS) that uses passwords to limit access to students in a particular class? Would that be fair use of copyrighted materials?

It’s not clear whether this is fair use or not. Yes limiting access to students in a particular class does make a better case for fair use.

  • However, even in limiting access, you still have to consider the four fair use factors and the guidelines for brevity and spontaneity.
  • If you are going to use a copyrighted work in class across multiple semesters, it is best to get the written permission of the copyright holder.

8. What about copying a worksheet, lab book, practice test for students from a published work?

No. These are all considered "consumables"  and are under copyright. You must have the permission of the copyright owner to make copies:

  • Faculty should discourage students from making copies of consumables and sharing them.
  • The only way you can make copies and distribute without violating copyright is 1. Get permission; 2. Create consumables yourself and retain the copyright; or 3. Check to see if the consumable falls under a Creative Commons or Public Domain license.

9. Can I show films in the classroom (face to face)?

Yes. According to the Section 110 (1) of the U.S. Copyright Act, performance of or showing films in the classroom as part of “face-to-face” teaching at non-profit educational institutions (such as MCC) is covered under the fair use exception.

The film must be:

  • Limited in viewing to students enrolled in the course.
  • Shown by students, instructors, or guest speakers.
  • Directly related to the instructional program.
  • Shown in a face to face classroom setting or another school location dedicated to instruction where students and education are in the same building or general area.
  • Shown for educational purposes (cannot be shown for entertainment).

10. Can I show films in an online setting (such as Schoology or Canvas)

Showing films in equivalent fashion as part of distance education or hybrid courses qualifies as fair use under the TEACH Act, but there are restrictions. See Section 110 (2) of the U.S. Copyright Act.

  • Only reasonable and limited portions of dramatic works, such as movies, TV programs, plays, etc. can be used; guidelines are up to 10 percent of the total or three minutes, whichever is less. In contrast, entire non-dramatic works can be shown.
  • If the film or clip is in one of MCC's film databases such as Feature Films for Education or Films on Demand then it can be shown in its entirety.

11. Can I display copyrighted pictures, images, or other visual material in an online setting (Canvas or Schoology?

Yes, generally. You must take reasonable measures to ensure against distribution of these copyrighted materials. This includes:

  • Holding the course in a password-protected format.
  • Only displaying material that is directly related to course content and under your supervision as an instructor during class session/module.
  • Posting a copyright notice in your course so that students are informed regarding the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted materials.
  • Taking steps so that students can not reproduce the work (saving files, downloading, etc.)

12. Do I have to get permission to link (hyperlink) to another site?

No, you do not need permission. But it is best practice to 1. ask permission and 2. post the permission when linking to another site. 

13. Do I have to get permission to embed (inline link) YouTube videos in a LMS (Canvas or Schoology)?

It has generally been agreed that embedding videos is not a copyright infringement. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that embedding videos does not violate copyright because no copy of the video is being made or stored on the website with the embedded link (Perfect 10, Inc. v., Inc., 508 F.3d 1146 (9th Cir. 2007)).

However, you should still be careful and remember these two things:

  • Don't embed or link to a video that you know (or should know) was infringed (recorded illegally). In that case, you could still be held liable.
  • Provide a good faith citation

14. What kinds of information am I allowed to post on my website?

Any information that has been created by you as an author is acceptable to put on a webpage or a website. This includes syllabi, class notes, biographical information, curriculum vitae, etc.

  • Articles or papers that you have written may be posted without permission only if you are the copyright holder for the work. If it has been published elsewhere, you may no longer own the copyright to the work and may have to seek permission to post it to your site.

If you copy a work or a significant portion of another work (including images) for which you do not own copyright and post it to a website without permission, you may be in violation of copyright law.

15. Putting something up on a website is not the same as publishing something, is it? So do I have to worry about copyright?

YES. Posting something to the web, even if you don’t call it publishing, still means it’s protected by copyright law. According to United States Copyright Law:

Copyright protects original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device.

once an image, article, book, or other work is created, it is protected under copyright whether or not it was published in a traditional manner.

16. Can I print, download, or e-mail information from a website or library database without violating copyright?

Yes, in general, it’s OK to print, download, or e-mail a single copy of a work from a database or website for personal, non-profit, research use.

  • Remember, though, that information on websites or in databases is almost always protected under copyright law.
  • Take care not to infringe the copyright by e-mailing, printing, downloading, or otherwise sharing multiple copies of the work.
  • It is a violation of copyright and licensing agreements to copy an entire database or even significant portions of a database even for personal use.

17. What else do I need to know about printing, downloading, or e-mailing information or articles from databases?

 Mohave Community College provides access to many databases, which contain articles, books, audio and video resources, and other information for scholarly research.

  • You can print, download, and e-mail this information because the College has paid for a license for you to do so.
  • In agreeing to this license, the College ensures that database users are students, staff, faculty or public patrons only.
  • The College also agrees that the information available is used in accordance with any restrictions listed in the license (for example, printing, downloading, or e-mailing one copy of an article for personal use).

Thus, because of this license agreement, you can use the information you find in the database for personal, non-profit, research purposes.

18. Do I need to get permission to use works that are out of print?

Possibly. If a work is out of print, it may still be under copyright protection. Proceed with the assumption that out of print works are under copyright. Do this you can confirm the copyright has expired and the work has entered the public domain.

19. How can I obtain public performance rights (PPR) to show a film or movie that is open to the public?

To obtain PPR you can (1) Contact the copyright holder or distributor directly or (2) Contact the licensing service representing the particular studio or title (this is usually required for feature length films). There are several companies that provide public performance licenses for a fee: