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Copyright for SXU Faculty and Students: What You Can Copy

Copyright basics, including fair use, public domain, and permissions

Computer Software

Computer software is copyrighted. The Doctrine of Fair Use applies to computer software.

Permissible uses of copyrighted software owned by or licensed to the University or its faculty:

  • Copying it by using it in a computer's memory.
  • Making one backup or archival copy.
  • Making adaptations in order to use a particular machine.
  • Lending it.
  • Selling it, in which case the backup or archival copy must be destroyed.

Prohibited uses of copyrighted software:

  • Making copies for gift or sale.
  • Copying a computer program purchased for use at the University in order to use it at home.
  • Copying a computer program purchased for use in one department or school for use in another department or school. A site license should be negotiated to allow multiple uses on campus.

How to Get Permission to Copy

Permission from copyright holders is often needed when creating course materials, research papers, and web sites. You need to obtain permission when you use a work in a way that infringes on the exclusive rights granted to a copyright holder (i.e. outside the boundaries of fair use).

Steps that need to be followed to obtain permission to use copyrighted material:

  1. Determine if permission is needed for the work you want to use.
  2. Identify the copyright holder or agent. 
  3. Send written request for permission to use. Remember to give yourself ample lead time, as the process for obtaining permissions can take months. Decide if you are willing to pay a licensing fee/royalty.
  4. If the copyright holder can't be located or is unresponsive (or if you are unwilling to pay a license fee), be prepared to use a limited amount that qualifies for fair use, or use alternative material.

For more information, visit the Copyright Clearance Center's Obtaining Permission page.

The Classroom

Copying of copyrighted materials for student learning and research use without written permission may occur in the following instances:

Single copying for teachers

Single copies may be made of any of the following by or for teachers at their individual request for scholarly research or use in teaching or preparation to teach a class:

  • One chapter from a book;
  • An article from a periodical, journal, or newspaper;
  • A short story, short essay, or short poem, whether or not from a collective work;
  • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper.

Multiple copies for student learning use

Multiple copies (not to exceed more than one copy per student in a course) may be made by or for the teacher giving the course for student learning use or discussion; provided that the following three criteria are met:

  • The copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity (as defined on the right).
  • The copying meets the cumulative effect test (as defined on the right).
  • Each copy includes a notice of copyright. An example is "this material may be protected by Copyright law (title 17, US Code)."

Defining Terms

Brevity: Either a complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words, (usually 3-8 pages depending on size of page and type) or an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1,000 words or 10 percent of the work, whichever is greater.

Spontaneity: The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher, and the inspiration and decision to use the work.The moment of its use for maximum teaching effectiveness are so close in time that it would be unreasonable to expect a timely reply to a request for permission.

Cumulative effect: Copying of the material is for only one course in the school in which the copies are made.

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