Open Access: Copyright Q + A

by Rose Petralia

Instructors, whether they teach online or on campus, frequently have questions about using copyrighted materials in their courses. Finding answers always boils down to first determining who actually holds the copyright and what the copyright owner’s policy allows regarding re-use, and then complying with stated guidelines. Below are just a few of the questions that we have been asked in Evans Library, along with suggested resources for determining answers.

Q: As an instructor, can I post a PDF of an entire Safari e-Book on ANGEL for my students to use?

A: According to Safari Books Online’s Subscription Agreement, an instructor may post “up to 2 Sections of works” in a course for students’ use. However, instructors can post a link to an e-Book, with students providing their TRACKS authorization to access the book online. See the Subscription Agreement for additional requirements and limitations.

Q: Can I post a PDF of my published article on my personal website?

A: That depends. When you are considering posting your own published works on your website, first check your contract to determine whether you actually do own the copyrights and not the publisher, and then check the publisher’s author guidelines. SHERPA/RoMEO makes many publisher and journal guidelines available online in a searchable format, or go to the publisher’s website and look for the Author’s Rights section. Most publishers grant some rights, including the right for authors to post copies of their own works. Others allow authors to post pre- or post-print PDFs. Still others, like PLOS and BioMed Central, license their articles with an Open Access license (identical to the Creative Commons Attribution License). According to licenses like these, anyone, including the author, is free to copy, distribute, download, and display the work as long as the original author is credited.

Q: Can I play copyrighted music that I have purchased for my face-to-face class?

A: According to Section 110 of the U.S. Copyright Code, yes — as long as the music that you wish to play is legally made, is displayed under the supervision of the instructor, is related to the educational content of the course, and is played solely for the students enrolled in the course. However, posting copyrighted music tracks online for students to download, whether those students are in your face-to-face or online course, violates several stipulations, including that the educators prevent access to the materials beyond the scope of the course, i.e.: after the course has ended, or to persons not enrolled in the course. View the full text of the code from the U.S. Copyright Office site.

For definitive answers regarding copyright, fair use, and plagiarism issues, please consult a certified copyright lawyer or contact one of  Florida Tech’s Patents and Copyrights Intellectual Property Committee Members.

Copyright symbol image by Zscout370, via Wikimedia Commons.


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