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Copyright Quick Guide

Copyright Quick Guide

The purpose of this guide is to provide an overview of copyright and provide resources to any member of the Creighton community with questions about copyright.

Creighton University Libraries provide assistance with copyright in the following areas:

  1. Providing education about copyright basics and workshops on copyright basics
  2. Ensuring that course reserves comply with copyright laws

Please note that the Creighton University Libraries cannot give legal advice. Questions outside this scope or otherwise requiring legal advice should contact the General Council

What is Copyright?

Copyright law applies to nearly all creative and intellectual works

Copyright law protects a wide and diverse array of materials. Books, journals, photographs, works of visual art and sculpture, music, sound recordings, computer programs, websites, film, architectural drawings, choreography and many other materials are within the reach of copyright law. If you can see it, read it, hear it, or watch it, it likely is captured by copyright.

The basic term of protection for works created today is for the life of the author, plus seventy years. In the case of "works made for hire", copyright lasts for the lesser of either 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation of the work. The duration rules for works created before 1978 are altogether different, and foreign works often receive distinctive treatment. More detailed information can be found at the United States Copyright Office.

Works are protected automatically, without copyright notice or registration

Copyright protectable works receive instant and automatic copyright protection at the time that they are created. U.S. law today does not require placing a notice of copyright on the work or registering the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. The law provides some important benefits if you do use the notice or register the work, but you are the copyright owner even without these formalities.

Fair Use

Copyright law provides for the principle, commonly called "fair use" that the reproduction of copyright works for certain limited, educational purposes, does not constitute copyright infringement. The Copyright Act establishes a four-factor test, the "fair use test," to use to determine whether a use of a copyrighted work is fair use that does not require the permission of the copyright owner. The fair use test is highly fact specific, and much can turn on seemingly insignificant variations on the proposed use.

To determine whether a proposed use is a fair use, you must consider the following four factors:

  • Purpose: The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature, or is for nonprofit education purposes.
  • Nature: The nature of the copyrighted work.
  • Amount: The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  • Effect: The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

To establish the strongest basis for fair use, consider using a Fair Use Checklist to help evaluate the nature of your use.

Distributing Copyrighted Works

While faculty are encouraged to use digital technology in innovative ways, care must be taken when using the Internet to distribute copyrighted materials to students for educational purposes. Fair use does not protect the act of widespread distribution of materials via publicly accessible Web sites.

The University provides the following methods for securely distributing work to students for class use. The University strongly encourages faculty to use these resources.

  • Course Reserves
    • The University Library provides print and electronic reserves for undergraduate and graduate courses. Library staff will digitize materials to be placed on electronic reserve or provide links to articles available via licensed electronic resources. Information on placing materials on Reserve is available on the University Libraries Course Reserves page.
  • Blueline
    • Blueline is the University's e-Learning environment which supports secure distribution of class-specific materials. Course Reserves are made available by the Library via Blueline, but faculty may also distribute additional materials through their Blueline sites. For more information on Blueline, please contact the Center for Faculty Excellence
  • Course Packs
    • Some departments and divisions within the University utilize photocopied course packs as an alternative way of distributing material to students. All materials included in course packs must be analyzed under applicable copyright requirements to determine whether copyright permission is needed, and, if necessary, appropriate permissions obtained from the copyright holders.
  • Web Sites
    • Copyrighted material should not be posted on web sites unless the site has appropriate access-restrictions built in. Faculty and staff may provide links on their web sites to articles within databases licensed by the University Libraries since these databases have built-in access restrictions, but such articles should not be downloaded and posted where they could be freely accessed and copied.