Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Information Literacy Toolkit: Concise Copyright for Faculty

A set of tools to designed to introduce information literacy concepts at Manchester Community College.

First, the Good News...

Permission is not required if the material


  • Was published before 1925 (AKA "Public Domain")
  • Was released under a Creative Commons license.
  • Is licensed or owned by the Library for use by MCC students, faculty, and staff (examples: eBooks, full-text articles such as JSTOR, Films on Demand).
  • Was produced by the United States government, unless the work has been contracted and produced by another entity. State government material may or may not be in the public domain.
  • Is available through a commons or institutional repository (examplesMIT's DSpace,ScholarWorks@UMASS).
  • Can be viewed on the open web (accessible via a URL or web search). Linking to content (rather than making a copy) is recommended.

Understanding Fair Use

What is Fair Use?

Fair use (Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law) is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, teaching, and scholarship. It provides for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test. (source: Wikipedia)

What you need to know

Fair Use ensures that there are certain uses of copyrighted materials that don't require permission or payment. However, even if the purpose of the use is educational in nature, you must consider all four factors (Purpose, Nature of the work, Amount used, and Market impact) as a whole to determine whether a use is fair.


  • Fair Use in Education and Research - Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office. Includes a helpful "Fair Use Checklist" to help you weigh the four factors in order to determine whether your use of copyrighted materials qualifies for a Fair Use exemption. 
  • Copyright and Fair Use Tools - Stanford University Libraries
  • Thinking Through Fair Use Online Tool - University of Minnesota. This is a web-based version of Columbia University's "Fair Use Checklist".

Understanding the TEACH Act

What is the TEACH Act?

The TEACH Act (Section 110(2) of the U.S. copyright law) allows educators to perform or display copyrighted works in distance education under specified conditions. It was an attempt to address the growth of distance learning by clarifying and refining the provisions of section 110. 

What you need to know

While the provisions of the TEACH Act may be applied to both fully online and "web enhanced" courses, they never trump Fair Use! It is also worth noting that the TEACH Act provisions are not nearly as generous as those established for face-to-face instruction. The TEACH Act does not apply to making articles and other supplemental materials available to your students that have traditionally been on reserve in the Library. For this you need to apply the "Four Factor" test to make a determination.  


Introduction to Copyright and Open Licensing

Copyright Basics for Teachers
This video helps teachers understand the basics of copyright, fair use, public domain, and open licensing.

What if I need help?

While we're not attorneys, MCC Reference Librarians or Educational Technology staff can provide guidance in the use of copyrighted or Creative Commons licensed materials in your courses.

Contact the Damato Library Reference Desk at (860) 512-2883 or on the web

What About Coursepacks?

Due to a number of legal rulings concerning coursepacks, collections of documents assembled for students and commonly made available for purchase, permission should be sought when using any copyrighted material. More information and suggestions for obtaining permissions may be found on Stanford University's Academic Coursepacks page.