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Copyright Information

Public Domain

  • Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States -- Cornell (User Friendly).
  • Copyright Renewal Database Stanford's Copyright Renewal Database compiles all US Class A (book) renewal registrations for works published between 1924 and 1963. These renewals were received by the US Copyright Office between 1950 and 1993.

Determining Permissions

Do I Need Permission?

  1. Is the work protected by copyright?
  2. Does Albright have a license to use the work or is it otherwise made freely available for educational use?
  3. Do you want to display, perform or transmit the work for educational purposes, including for distance learning?
  4. Do you want to make archival copies of the work?
  5. Do you want to make photocopies of the work for classroom use?

1. Is the work protected by copyright?

If the work is not copyrightable or is in the public domain, permission is not required to use the work. If the work IS copyrightable and is NOT in the public domain, go to Question 2.

Some examples of works not protected by copyright are:

  • facts and factual works, such as directories;
  • works that lack originality, including unoriginal reprints of public domain works;
  • most U.S. government works;
  • ideas, processes, methods and systems described in copyrighted works;
  • works that are specifically put into the public domain by their authors or the owner of the copyright, such as freeware; and
  • works in the public domain.

The following charts can help determine whether the work is in the public domain: "When Works Pass Into the Public Domain" at the Copyright Clearance Center, a chart contributed by Lolly Gasaway of the University of North Carolina and Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States, by Peter Hirtle of Cornell University.

The Copyright Office offers several resources for searching copyright, including on-line searches and Circular 22: How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work <pdf> to assist copyright research.

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2. Does Albright have a license to use the work or is it otherwise made freely available for educational use?


Albright Licenses

Albright has licenses with many providers of on-line databases of academic journals, news articles, images, etc. These databases may be accessed from the A-Z Database List page of the Albright Library web site on

Some licenses allow educational uses such as making copies for classroom use and linking directly to the article for educational purposes. If Albright has a license for the work that covers your proposed use, no further authorization is required. If your use is NOT covered, go to question 3.

Examples of databases licensed by Albright are:

J-STOR, a database of academic journals. Albright's license permits authorized users to link to full text articles (so long as those accessing the articles via the links are also authorized users, such as students).

ARTstor, a digital library of more than one million images in the areas of art, architecture, the humanities, and social sciences. Coverage includes images from prehistoric times to the present day

Albright also has licenses with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, performing rights organizations which license and distribute royalties for the non dramatic public performances of the copyrighted musical works of their members. CUNY's licenses permit the University community to perform music from ASCAP's and BMI's catalogue, including such uses as dance performances, concerts, and student club events. Other uses of music, such as college radio broadcasts and webcasts, dramatic music performances (opera, musicals, etc.), and making copies of or re-recording existing records, tapes and CDs, may require different and/or additional licenses.


Works Freely Available for Educational Use

Several sources provide art, architectural and other visual images that may generally be used freely and without further authorization for non-profit educational purposes. Some examples are:

AICT - Art Images for College Teaching is a database of art and architectural photographs by art historian and photographer Allan T. Kohl. Images may be used by academic institutions freely and without further authorization in conjunction with educational activities such as teaching, research, and scholarly publication.

Digital Imaging Project consists of art historic images of sculpture and architecture from pre-historic to post-modern, by Mary Ann Sullivan, Bluffton College. Images may be used freely for personal or educational purposes.

WorldImages provides access to the California State University IMAGE Project. Its images may be freely used for non-profit educational purposes.

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3. Do you want to display, perform or transmit the work for educational purposes, including for distance learning?

The Copyright Act exempts certain educational uses from liability for infringement. These are bright-line rules. If your proposed use meets these requirements, as described in Questions 3 - 5, permission is not required to use the work. If your proposed use does NOT fall within any of these exemptions, go to Question 6 to see if the general fair use provisions apply.

Use in Face-to-Face Teaching (Sec. 110(1) of the Copyright Act)

Who: Teachers and students at nonprofit educational institutions

What: Perform or display copyrighted works, including showing lawfully made copies of movies and videos, playing music, performing plays, showing art works, etc. in the course of face-to-face teaching in a classroom.

Excludes: Photocopying of materials for classroom use, making of course packs, on-line uses, or any other reproduction, distribution or making of derivative works. Refer to Questions 4, 5 and 6 for these uses.

Electronic Transmission of certain works [TEACH Act] (Sec. 110(2) of the Copyright Act)

Who: Accredited nonprofit educational institutions

What: Teachers and students may transmit (e.g., via the internet):

  • the performance of ALL of a non-dramatic literary or musical work (poetry & short story readings, all music other than opera, musicals and music videos)
  • REASONABLE AND LIMITED PORTIONS of any other performance (includes all audiovisual works, plays, opera, musicals and other dramatic musical works)
  • displays of any work in AMOUNTS COMPARABLE TO TYPICAL FACE-TO-FACE displays (includes photographs and other still images)


  • works produced or marketed primarily for in-class use in the digital distance education market;
  • works the instructor knows or has reason to believe were not lawfully made or acquired;
  • textbooks, course packs and other materials in any media typically purchased by students for their independent use.

Additional Conditions: The performance or display must be:

  • A regular part of a systematic mediated instructional activity;
  • Made by, at the direction of, or under the supervision of the instructor;
  • Directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content; and
  • For and technologically limited to students enrolled in the class.

Albright must:

  • Have policies and provide information about, and give notice that the materials used may be protected by, copyright;
  • Apply technological measures that reasonably prevent recipients from retaining the works beyond the class session and further distributing them;
  • Not interfere with technological measures taken by copyright owners that prevent retention and distribution.

In a nutshell: The TEACH Act is intended to cover classroom-type instruction delivered on-line. It does not cover materials an instructor may want students to study, read, listen to or watch on their own time outside of class. For these uses, the instructor must continue to rely on the principals of fair use.

Additional resources on the TEACH Act:

The Original TEACH Act Toolkit - Originally a joint project of the North Carolina State University Libraries, Office of Legal Affairs and DELTA, the Toolkit is now maintained by the LSU University Libraries.

The TEACH Act - A description of the law and checklist from The Copyright Crash Course at the University of Texas

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4. Do you want to make archival copies of the work?

Section 108 of the Copyright Act classifies certain types of copying of copyrighted works by libraries and archives as educational fair use. If your proposed use meets these requirements, permission is not required to use the work. If your proposed use does NOT meet the requirements, use the Fair Use Analysis to see if the general fair use provisions apply.

Who: Nonprofit libraries and archives

What: Make up to 3 copies of a work for purposes of preservation or interlibrary loan. Copies can be either analog or digital, provided that digital copies are only made available to the public on the library premises.

Copy a work into a new format if the original format is obsolete (e.g., the machine or device used to perceive the work is either no longer manufactured or is not reasonably available in the commercial marketplace).

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5. Do you want to make photocopies of the work for classroom use?

The Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-For-Profit Educational Institutions with Respect to Books and Periodicals, reprinted in the Copyright Office's Circular 21: Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians <pdf>, is included in the legislative history of the Copyright Act and provides a safe harbor for educational fair use. The rules are stringent. Copying must meet tests of brevity, spontaneity and cumulative effect, which are summarized below.

Summary: Multiple copies (not to exceed more than one copy per pupil in a course) may be made by or for the teacher giving the course for classroom use or discussion; provided that the copying meets the following tests. Each copy must include prominent copyright notice.


  • Either (1) a complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words, or (2) an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1,000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less, but in any event a minimum of 500 words.
  • A complete poem if less than 250 words and if printed on not more than two pages, or an excerpt of not more than 250 words.
  • One chart, graph, diagram, drawing per book or periodical issue.


The inspiration and decision to use the work and 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

The copying of the material is for only one course in the school in which copies are made.

  • Not more than one short poem, article, story, essay or two excerpts may be copied from the same author, nor more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume during a term.
  • There shall not be more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one course during a term.

NOTE: A course pack never falls within the Guidelines.

If your proposed use does not meet the rules of these Guidelines above, conduct a Fair Use Analysis.

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