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Copyright and Fair Use @ UH Manoa: FAQ

Copyright guidelines for the University of Hawaii at Manoa Library and information for faculty and students on copyright and fair use of materials in education


What is the educational exemption and how does it work?

Copyright allows many exceptions for face-to-face teaching, including reading from a copyrighted work, showing images or videos, or playing music. These exceptions do not automatically apply to online class settings, but a more limited set of exceptions were granted to online instruction via the TEACH act of 2002.

How does copyright apply to course reserves?

Since course reserves are used outside of class, the educational exemption does not apply to course reserves. However, application of the fair use doctrine allows many copyrighted resources to be used for teaching and instruction without permission or fees. When course resources fall outside fair use, however, the instructor must seek permission or purchase legal copies.

What is fair use?

Fair use is a concept embedded in U.S. law that recognizes that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright holder. Fair use recognizes that many creative works build on the foundations of previous created works and do not necessarily harm the potential market. Determining fair use is not a cut-and-dry process, but require analysis by four factors:1)  the character of the use, 2) the nature of the work to be used, 3) the amount used, and 4) the effect of the use on the market for or value of the work. Ultimately, the most important question for fair use is: does the new use of the copyrighted material transform the original meaning or use?

Resources: ALA on Fair Use and Electronic Reserves.

When do I need to seek public performing rights for audiovisual materials?

Anytime the public is invited to view a copyrighted work, such as a video, public performing rights must be sought, even if the original copy is legally acquired. A video does not automatically have public performance rights if it is posted on the internet.

When can something be copied for preservation?

If a legally-purchased copy of a copyrighted work is about to become unusable, such as an unstable videotape or brittle book, libraries can make a digital or analog copy. However, the number of copies available has to remain the same—if there was one legal copy before, there can only be one legal copy after transfer.

What is the public domain?

For many documents, after a specified copyright term, creative works move into what is called the public domain. Public domain works can be freely copied by anyone. Determining if a document in the public domain can be tricky, but generally printed works published before 1923 are in the public domain. U.S. government documents fall under public domain.

Resource: Cornell public domain chart.

How do I obtaining permission to copy something that is in copyright?

Usually the best course of action is contacting the copyright holder of the agency in charge of administering the copyright. This can be problematic, but it is best to keep of record of your attempts to locate the copyright holder if any legal questions arise.

What are creative commons licenses are how do they work?

Creative commons licenses arose in the internet age to permit specific uses of copyrighted works without contacting the copyright holder. There are many types of creative commons licenses, so be sure you determine what is allowed before using a work with a creative commons license or affixing a creative commons license on your own work.

Resource: Creative Commons site.