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Copyright Center for CPS Online (UNH Manchester Library): Overview & Definitions

Copyright and the legal use of resources for teaching purposes is complex. Copyright law can be very confusing. Adding to this complexity is the perception that all web resources are free to be used, licensing agreements limiting what can be done with our library resources, and the OER actions of remix/re-use/adapt. The following pages provide some guidance around ethically using resources specifically in an online teaching environment.

A Caveat

As noted above, copyright is complex. The information provided in this guide is intended to present researched definitions and information about copyright, fair use, and creative commons licenses for teaching purposes. It should not be seen as providing legal advice.


  Copyright Basics

Copyright: A form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for "original works of authorship", including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. "Copyright" literally means the right to copy but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery. Similarly, names, titles, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, and listings of contents or ingredients are not subject to copyright.

Fair Use

  Fair Use

Fair Use: The doctrine that permits the limited use of brief excerpts of copyrighted material, under certain circumstances, to be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.

  Public Domain

Public Domain refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it. To learn more, see Public Domain (Stanford University Libraries).

 Open Access

Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment. See Open Educational Resources.

Open educational resources (OER)

OERs are freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes.

Copyright Notice: The copyright notice consists of three elements. The "c" in a circle (©), the year of first publication, and the name of the owner of copyright. A copyright notice is not required to secure copyright on works first published on or after March 1, 1989, but it does provide legal benefits. IMPORTANT NOTE: Always assume a resource is under copyright regardless of the presence or absence of a copyright notice.

Creative Commons License:  This is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give others the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created.