Copyright at OCOM

What is Copyright?

Origin and Purpose

Copyright is a type of protection given to an “original work of authorship” (Title 17, United States Code). The purpose of copyright is meant to promote the arts and sciences while still providing incentive for creators. The roots of copyright law started in Britain in 1710 with The Statute of Annae, which helped out authors who were being exploited by publishers, who were reprinting works and not giving a penny of the profits to the authors. Copyright law originally just encompassed printed works, but now copyright is involved in almost every aspect of life, from movies and music to databases and blogs. If you've every drawn a picture, written a poem, filmed yourself dancing, you are a copyright owner!

Requirements for Protection

It used to be that you had to file for copyright, but now, copyright is awarded to any original work in fixed medium, regardless of whether it is published or not. You no longer need to file for copyright; it is automatically granted once you create something in a tangible (or fixed) format. So while an idea is not copyrightable, a drawing or poem (even if scribbled on a napkin) is.

Duration of Rights

Copyright Protection and the Public Domain

United States copyright protection is currently set at the life of the author plus 70 years for works created since 1978, while works created before 1978 have different copyright duration rules.

For 2022: Works published prior to 1926 are now in the Public Domain, meaning that anyone is available to use, build on, or alter these works in any way without first obtaining copyright permission. In the U.S., work by people who died in 1951 are in the Public Domain.

When works pass out of copyright protection, they enter the Public Domain. This essentially means that they are owned by the public and that people can do whatever they want with them, including creating derivative works. This is how books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies can exist without the new creator being sued. Every year that passes, new materials are supposed to enter the public domain, but this act froze it so that no new materials could enter the public domain until 2019. This is commonly referred to as The Mickey Mouse Protection Act because Mickey Mouse was just about due to enter the public domain when this Act was passed, keeping Disney’s rights to Mickey safe and secure.

A (very) Brief History

The Statute of Annae in 1710 gave authors rights for 14 years. Between 1790-1962, there wasn’t much of an increase in the length of copyright terms, but since 1976, modern the duration for U.S. Copyright Law has nearly doubled. The Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act of 1998 froze the Public Domain for 20 years.

Fair Use

Fair Use is an exception to copyright. Fair Use is often used in educational contexts "such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.” Copyright law is not supposed to stifle creativity, so this is where Fair Use comes into play. Fair Use makes exceptions for teachers using copyrighted materials in their classrooms, but could also include people remixing videos for satirical purposes, or the use of copyrighted materials to provide social commentary.

If you are confused as to whether the work you want to use falls under Fair Use, you can conduct a Fair Use analysis.There are four aspects to look at when conducting a Fair Use analysis:

  • The Purpose, including whether it is for commercial or nonprofit educational use;
  • The Nature of the work;
  • The Amount used in relation to the whole;
  • The Effect on the market or value of the work.

A Fair Use Analysis is not the law, but a guide. Each of these four aspects must be taken into account in conducting a Fair Use Analysis. If you do an analysis that comes out in your favor, it does not mean that you are exempt or that you are not infringing on copyright law – rather, it just means that there is a good chance that you might not be infringing. If you have doubts, you should always seek permission from the original copyright owner.

Learn More

Stanford has an excellent Copyright & Fair Use site.  

Columbia University's Fair Use Checklist is helpful for those looking to conduct a Fair Use Analysis.

Harvard has helpful informational graphics on Fair Use.

Exclusive Rights for Copyright Owners

The Exclusive rights in copyright works are laid out in Title 17 U.S. Code § 106, sections 107-122.

All copyright owners automatically receive the following rights:

  • Reproduce copies of their work
  • Create derivative works
  • Distribute copies or recordings of the work for sale, transfer, rent, lease, or lending
  • The right to display or perform work publicly

Only the copyright holder has the power over these rights.

What Cannot be Copyrighted?

Certain types of works cannot by copyrighted, such as:

  • Facts and ideas
  • Raw data
  • Works that are not set in a fixed or tangible form
  • Titles and names
  • Ideas, concepts, procedures, methods, discoveries, and facts
  • Obvious works that do not have an author (for example, a 12-month Julian calendar)
  • Works whose copyright has expired and is in the Public Domain

It is important to keep in mind that although facts (including recipes and formulas) cannot be copyrighted, the arrangement of these facts can.

Certain uncopyrightable works can be covered by other forms of law.

  • Slogans and logos can be covered under Trademark Law
  • Processes, methods, and systems can be covered under Patent Law
  • Proprietary formulas and recipes can be covered under Trade Secret Law
Staying Copyright Compliant

If you have not secured permission to use a copyrighted work, then follow the following tips to follow Fair Use Guidelines:

  • Only use a small piece of the item and only what is absolutely necessary.
  • Only use it for personal and class-related purposes.
  • Don't make a copy of the material available in any openly accessible fashion (including on the internet).
  • Don't use it if you are in any way adversely affecting the commercial potential of the work.
  • Make sure that you take your excerpt of the work from a legally-obtained version of the work.
Using Copyrighted Material in Schoolwork
During you time as a student, you have a bit more flexibility than you would have normally in the "real" world when using copyrighted work in your educational studies. There are still restrictions on what you can and cannot do.

Students may use copyrighted text, images, charts, diagrams and other material in school papers, as long as the material is cited properly. If you are planning on publishing your materials, even informally on the web, you will need to conduct fair use analyses for the use of copyrighted material and possibly pay a licensing fee or remove the material from your work.

More information on proper citations can be found in our AMA guide.
Copying Materials

What You CAN Do

Students are allowed to make a single copy of a journal article, book chapter, chart, diagram, graph, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, periodical or newspaper for their own personal use, as long as it is not used for monetary gain.

What You CanNOT Do

Although students are allowed to make a single copy of a small portion of a work (an article, chapter, etc.), photocopying an entire book is not allowed.

The distribution of additional copies is also not allowed, including both print and digital formats. In addition, you should not make copyrighted works publicly available (such as posting them on a blog). Course Packs should not be further copied, as this may be a serious infringement of the College’s copyright licenses.

The duplication of A/V media such as audio lectures, music and videos are not covered by fair use; copying of these materials is strictly forbidden.

Course Packets

Royalties are paid for each copyrighted work used in a course packet and the cost is passed on to the students. Students will not be charged at a profit to the school.

Course Packs should not be further copied, as this may be a serious infringement of the College’s copyright licenses.

Any information on how to purchase a course packet should be included in your course syllabus. Please contact your instructor for instructions on ordering course packets.

Presenting in the Classroom
The Classroom Use Exception (17 U.S.C. §110(1)) allows instructors to use copyrighted materials in the classroom without seeking permission. This exception is explicitly for in-person classroom instruction at a non-profit institution, and does not cover online teaching (there are different rules for that).

If you would like to show a video, listen to a podcast, or otherwise display any copyrighted material during a live, in-person classroom presentation, you are free to do so! Just make sure you are not posting online or otherwise making the resource available outside of that class lecture.
Presenting Online
Teaching class content online uses a different exception: the TEACH Act (17 U.S.C. §110(2) and §112(f)).

To qualify for this exception, the work you are using fulfill the following criteria:
  • Lawfully made and acquired.
  • Only use a limited amount of the material.
  • Limit the material used to current students enrolled in the course.
  • Prevent further sharing of the material outside of the online classroom setting.
You can still conduct a Fair Use analysis on your teaching materials used in online instruction. If a copyrighted work is being fairly, you don't have to worry about the above criteria because you are already covered.
Making Copies for Classroom Use

When making print or digital copies for classroom use, a copyright notice should be stamped on the first page of the material being copied (17 U.S.C. §401) and instructors must meet the tests of Brevity, Spontaneity and Cumulative Effect:


  • Poetry: (a) A complete poem if less than 250 words and if printed on not more than two pages or (b) from a longer poem, an excerpt of not more than 250 words.
  • Prose: (a) Either a complete article, story, or essay of less than 2,500 words, or (b) 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. (Each of the numerical limits stated in “i” and “ii” above may be expanded to permit the completion of an unfinished line of a poem or of an unfinished prose paragraph.)
  • Illustration: One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture per book or per periodical issue.
  • “Special” works: Certain works in poetry, prose, or in “poetic prose” which often combine language with illustrations and which are intended sometimes for children and at other times for a more general audience fall short of 2,500 words in their entirety. Paragraph “ii” above notwithstanding such “special works” may not be reproduced in their entirety; however, an excerpt comprising not more than two of the published pages of such special work and containing not more than 10% of the words found in the text thereof may be reproduced.


  •  The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher; and
  •  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 the 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 one class term.
  •  There shall not be more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one course during one class term. (The limitations stated in “ii” and “iii” above shall not apply to current news periodicals and newspapers and current news sections of other periodicals.)
If the instructor will be using the material for more than one academic term, the instructor should fill out a Course Reserves Request Form to secure the required course materials to be placed on reserve in the library. If the instructor is using six or more articles, books chapters, or other items that require securing copyright permissions, the instructor will need to work with Clean Copy to create a course packet. See the Course Packets section for more details.
Posting an Article / Book Chapter
Instructors may place legally obtained copies of copyrighted materials on Populi for one academic term; linking to open access or resources that the library subscribes to is preferred. Uploading copyrighted material to other online venues (such as a personal website or file sharing site) is expressly prohibited.

Instructors may post up to two scanned book chapters in Populi for use in their course without having to secure copyright permission, provided that the scanned material is equal to less than 10% of the entire book. Please remember to include the full citation and copyright information along with the scanned chapter(s). If you are using more than two chapter, more than 10% of the work, or if the book chapter is used repeatedly (i.e., the scanned chapter(s) were used in the course last year, and you want to use them again this year), copyright permission needs to be secured. Fill out the Course Reserves Request Form if the book chapter(s) you would like to use meet any of these criteria.

You are welcome to use journal articles and eBooks from the Library's online collection without seeking permission. Our contracts allow for use in course reserves, so feel free to use anything from our collection! Just make sure you use the full proxied link (which begins with; more information about proxied links can be found below.  

You can use the article or scanned book chapter for one academic term without seeking permission; use in subsequent terms will require us to secure copyright permission. If you used an article or scanned book chapter previously and would like to use it again for your class, please fill out a Course Reserves Request Form so we can make sure to secure copyright permissions.

If you do not already have a legally obtained copy of the article or book chapter, please submit an Interlibrary Loan Request Form to get a copy.
Videos / DVD
Videotapes of a recorded television program may be put on reserve for one academic term only; any additional use requires the purchase of a legally produced copy from the copyright owner or authorized dealer.

When adding video in Populi, if at all possible, link out to the material online! For example, if you find a YouTube video that you would like students to watch, do not download the video and upload it into Populi; rather, you can just embed the video into the lesson, or create a link to the video on YouTube.
Creating a Stable Link to an Article
If you find an article in one of the library online resources that you would like your students to have access to, copy and pasting the URL from the top of your browser screen will often end in errors and headaches. If you would like to link your students or colleagues to an article from within a library database or online journal subscription, you will need to create a proxied URL. A proxy is a way of letting the website know that the person trying to access the article belongs to OCOM; it will redirect them to the login page so they can successfully view the full-text. This is OCOM's proxy:

If you had to log in to view the article, your students will need to do the same! Any URL you post will have two parts: the proxy and the permalink. EXAMPLE:

Demonstration of the URL proxy in front of a journal website's URL

For articles found directly from journal publisher websites, the permalink is just the regular URL from the web browser. So just copy the URL in your search bar, and add the proxy to the beginning of it.

Articles found in databases (such as EBSCO host and Gale) often have a built-in option to create a proxied URL. Look for the permalink button, and make sure the proxy is at the beginning of the URL:

Detailed record view in EBSCOhost showing the location of the permalinkbutton on the right
Uploading Material to Populi

If you would like to post copyrighted information into Populi, here are some guidelines:

  • Do not upload material that you do not own unless you have already received permission from the copyright owner to do so. If at all possible, link out to the material online. For example, if you find a YouTube video that you would like students to watch, do not download the video and upload it into Populi; rather, you can just embed the video into the lesson, or create a link to the video on YouTube.
  • Feel free to link to websites and open access journal articles found freely available on the web.
  • If you would like to post an article that is not freely available online or via the OCOM Library, you conduct a Fair Use Analysis. If you deem your use falls under Fair Use, then feel free to use the material. If you have concerns about its use, fill out a Course Reserve Request Form. A library staff member will legally obtain the article for you and send you a PDF or a link that you can then post into Populi.
Requesting Course Reserves

Faculty members may request materials to be placed on reserve. Course reserves can be in electronic format (such as a PDF of a journal article that is posted in Populi), or the physical item may be placed on reserve in the library for 1 week checkout (for example, an entire book or a chart).

If you have already added the book to your list of required texts in Populi, there is no need to fill out this form  we will automatically place these items on reserve!

Please allow adequate time for reserve requests  we may need to request copyright permissions, which could take as long as a week to secure. To place a request, fill out this form.

Course Packets
If you will be using six or more articles, books chapters, or other items that require securing copyright permissions, you will need to work with the OCOM Bookstore to create a course packet. The library may carry course textbooks and required materials on reserve, but will not provide access to course packets – it is the responsibility of the instructor to work with the Bookstore in creating this and instructing students on how to purchase packets.

If a student group or club would like to show a film, the sponsoring group will need to secure the proper licensing rights. Film showings that are organized by student groups or clubs are considered public performances, even if the film is educational or if the event is only available to OCOM students.

Many films (both documentaries and feature films) require a public performance license to be purchased. The sponsoring club is responsible for the funding of the performance license, and a license or permission must be secured even if the film is acquired from a personal collection, rental store, or library. For smaller, independent productions, students may contact the distributor directly to ask for permission. Proof of purchase of a required license must be presented to the Student Services Manager prior to advertising for the event.

If a student club requires assistance in locating information about the copyright holder, they may contact the Director of Library Services for assistance.

Finding a Copyright Holder
Search for the title on IMDB and click on the Company Credits link. Look for the US DVD distributor  this is generally the company that you want to contact about getting performance licensing. If no distributor or company credits are listed, try going to the film's website to see if the site includes contact information.
Licensing Services

Most big-budget and feature releases can be licensed through third-party licensing companies without having to contact the copyright holder. Here are some film licensing providers:

OCOM-Owned Educational Videos

Some videos in OCOM's collection already come with the performance rights -- we bought these titles at a higher price, and are free to show them without seeking permission. Here is a current list of our titles:

Using Graphics
Although graphics can take longer to prepare, they can necessary for explaining certain difficult concepts and help facilitate learning.

If you are not creating your own images (i.e. a graph, chart, or drawing) and are looking for images online, you need to carefully consider the copyright implications. You should never assume that images found online are free to use, many are in copyright. If you would like to use an image you found online in your research or teaching, you should do one of the following:
  • Get permission from the image's copyright owner
  • Buy you images from a reputable stock photo site
  • Use an image that has been designated as being in the Public Domain or has a Creative Commons license
  • Create your own images or take your own photos

Free and Legal Image Repositories

The following section details some online image repositories where you can find images that are free to use. Many have copyrighted content within as well, so always double check the rights information before using images in your work! Please note that for some of these sites you have to specify you are searching for Creative Commons and Public Domain Images. 

Beware of image licensing sites, like Shutterstock or Adam, while there may be a Fair Use case for using images from these sites, the fact that they are available to license will weigh in favor of any use not being considered “fair”.
Google Image Search
By filtering the "Usage Rights" in a Google Image search, you can see images that allow for reuse. If you are not planning on making money from or otherwise selling your poster presentation, you can select "Labeled for noncommercial reuse" to get the most results.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) to everyone, in their own language.
NLM Digital Collections
The National Library of Medicine's Digital Collections allow you to search for historical medical images. This resources allows you to refine your search by copyright status, and uses MeSH terminology for searching. The Images from the History of Medicine Collection (IHM) is a great collection if you are looking for vintage Chinese medicine art. These may be under copyright, so make sure to check!
Wellcome Collection
The Wellcome Collection is a free museum and library that includes a huge online digital collection. Most of the resources have Creative Commons licenses, and are free to use as long as you provide attribution to the Wellcome Collection.

Flickr Commons
Flickr allows you to filter search results by license.

Some images in institutional collections, like the National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine archive, may have unclear licensing terms. You may see the license, "No Known Copyright Restrictions." In these cases, the institution believes the image to be in the public domain. For images from NLM's History of Medicine collection, they ask that if you use an image, to use the following credit: “Courtesy of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland.”