Got Copyright? Resources and Information About Fair Use in the Classroom and On-Line

by P.D. Lesko

IN 1842, CHARLES Dickens and his wife, Catherine, traveled to the United States. While trekking cross country, Dickens often spoke in support of an international copyright agreement. The lack of such an agreement enabled printers in the U.S. to publish his books without permission and without paying the Englishman any royalties.

This situation also impacted other writers, such as the American author Edgar Allan Poe. In England, Poe’s works were published without his permission.

Dickens first realized that he was losing income because of the lack of international copyright laws in 1837 when The Pickwick Papers was published in book form. Outside of England, the novel was reprinted without his permission and sometimes even imitated.
For those who teach on-line, finding and using resources posted to the Internet is an important part of course development. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, protects those resources. The Copyright Act also protects and limits the liability of nonprofit institutions of higher education–when they serve as on-line service providers, and under certain circumstances, for copyright infringement by faculty members or graduate students.

This is a nifty little clause. It means that should a copyright holder sue you and the institution that hosts your Web site or on-line course for copyright infringment, the chances are very good that your nonprofit institution’s liability will be limited, but that yours, as the instructor and accused infringer, will not. So, before you post anything to your Web site or incorporate materials into an on-line course, take some time and learn the rules governing fair use.

Copyright Basics

The U.S. Copyright Office offers a comprehensive publication that can answer most, if not all, of your questions ( There is information, for instance, about who can claim a copyright; what works are protected; how much it costs to register a copyright; what may not be protected under copyright; find out how to apply for a copyright and get info about how long a work is protected.

Copyright Management Center, Indiana University

The comprehensive site at Indiana University provides information on fair use for teaching and researchers, rights and claims of ownership, distance education, getting permission to use a work, and special rules for special media

The UCLA Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy

The UCLA Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy ( provides innovative opportunities for members of the online community to share resources and explore new directions.

The following is a list of recent topics discussed on the site: Internet Policies, Intellectual Property Rights, Emerging Information Infrastructure, Copyright Issues Proposed in The Digital Age, Intellectual Property in the Information Age, Developments under the Digital Millennium, Copyright Act Focus on Distance Education and on the Limits of Online Service Provider Liability.

The CyberLaw Encyclopedia Copyright Law

This site ( is directory based, easy to use, and provides a wide variety of links to copyright resources on-line. It covers Internet and non-Internet related copyright topics.

The Public Domain: How to Find and Use Copyright Free Writings, Music, Art and More,, 300 pages, $54.00.

This 300 page book by Stephen Fishman is a guide to the creative works that are not protected by copyright, and may be copied freely or otherwise used without paying permission fees. The book explains step-by-step how to recognize when a work is in the public domain. The book also lists hundreds of resources, such as Web sites, libraries and archives, useful for locating public domain works.

Copyright Law on Campus, Washington State University Press, 56 pages, $12.00.

Author Marc Lindsey explores the reasons behind copyright, the exclusive rights granted to the holder, and the duration of those rights. He presents the risks of infringement, how to limit vulnerability, and explains when a violation becomes a criminal offense. Often using examples from his own campus experience, he covers the four factors of fair use, and then shows how to analyze them and apply the facts to specific situations.

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  • AdjunctNation Editorial Team: @Jeffr thanks for pointing out the distinction.
  • Jeffr: Note that adjunct faculty are considered to be on a “term” basis and receives no protection except...
  • Scott: I believe Sami is correct in that this no reasonable assurance language will allow adjuncts continuing access...
  • Nancy West-Diangelo: It’s as if we’ve lost the ability to listen critically. If the point of the work we...
  • Freddi-Jo Bruschke: An excellent description of this editorial.