Skip to Main Content

A Short Course in Copyright for NWACC Faculty

Learn the basics of Fair Use and Navigating Copyright in 2021

Professional Profile

Profile Photo
Gwen Dobbs
Voicemail only 479-619-4245

About This Guide

Welcome to NWACC Library Short Course on Copyright. This Guide is designed as a quick reference tool on Copyright for Faculty.

This Guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.

Portions of this guide were adapted, with permission, from a guide created by Frannie Gaede at Butler University.

Copyright Basics

  • How can we tell if something is subject to copyright protection or not? In the United States, creative works are automatically protected by copyright as soon as they are fixed in a tangible form.
  • How can we find out who the copyright owner might be? Look for the author/copyright holder by the Circle C, the publication data, or hosting organization.
  • If the work is under copyright, what sorts of things can I do with it? A simple circle c means you are bound by fair use and teach act requirements, but some materials these days offer more freedom in service of open publishing. An example of this is Creative Commons licensing. More information can be found at
  • Are there exceptions or limitations to copyright that might apply - e.g., public domain, open license, fair use / fair dealing, etc.? Yes, some of these issues do allow for limited or generous sharing, or even remixing, as long as the original source is cited/ attributed.

Exceptions to Copyright

  • Public domain
Items in the public domain may be used for free --at no cost-- in the educational environment and elsewhere. Ideally, faculty and students should always cite their source as a best practice, but permissions and/or rights payments are not required.
  • Fair use / fair dealing
The four factors of Fair Use can help you determine if and when it is ok to copy content for teaching and learning and in the classroom and in the campus library. Those four factors are:
  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether it is of a commercial nature or for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work
  3. the amount of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
No one factor is more important than the other and each use must meet all 4 factors. So the educational use, alone, does not qualify something as allowed. And the amount of a work used does not qualify something as allowed. Fair Use is a balance of all four factors. For a more detailed description of these 4 factors please vist the BYU Copyright Licensing Office.
  • TEACH Act
The Teach Act was created as a part of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to address the evolution of digital information and to support online learning. Part of that is extending the classroom to the digital environment. And most importantly, for a use to be allowed it does not need to meet both the factors of Fair Use and the Teach Act, just one or the other.
  • Section 108 exceptions for libraries
Section 108 exceptions are what allow a library to be a library. It allows libraries to make copies of copyrighted materials for Inter-Library Loan, for individual researchers and for preservation. It allows libraries to make information accessible to our users.
  • Exceptions for accessibility such as the Chafee Amendment and the Marrakesh Treaty

The Chafee Amendment and the Marrakesh Treaty allows copies of copyrighted materials in various formats to serve individuals with disabilities. Print can be made into audio files or braille. Video can be captioned and described, etc.. Again, this allows for access for all patrons, regardless of ability.

Open Content and Licensing


OER, and more liberally licensed materials, are growing more popular each year, especially in the academic environment and in light of the current global health crisis. Please visit for more information of the movement. You can find information on NWACC's support of OER here. lists 6 licenses available to foster free and low-cost ways to sharing of information and intellectual property.  You can find all 6 licenses and what they allow at

Much like copyright itself, you can simply apply a cc license to a work you create, and it is in effect. No registration or filing with any office or entity.

Open Access resources and publishing is one of the ways educational institutions, especially state funded educational institutions, give back to the communities that support them. By using Open Access materials an institution is being a good steward of public resources-tax dollars.

A good example of how helpful this can be is available in the PubMed database--the National Institutes of Health medical database, and one of the first places NWACC faculty and students may encounter open access research. In short, if research is funded by taxpayer dollars via government agency grants--such as the NIH or NSF--these agencies also require that said publications be available for free, as well is in proprietary journals.. In other words, if the research was funded by taxpayer dollars,  it is available full-text in pubmed. The public no longer has to pay for the same research twice via the original grant, and a library subscription to a propriety journal.