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Medicine: Copyright in Teaching

Medical and health sciences resources available through the Belmont libraries

Belmont University Policies

Faculty should be familiar with university policies. 

This guide does not provide legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel. 

Copyright for Teaching

  • Copyright is a federal law. It is Title 17 of the United States Code
  • It protects the right of authors to control the use of their original work for a limited period of time
  • Applies to any tangible form of expression
  • Is automatic – no special symbol necessary
  • Regardless of publication or access, material on the Internet IS covered by copyright
  • Exceptions to copyright exclusions include Educational Exceptions and Fair Use
    • But an educational use is not always a fair use. There is more to consider!

The U.S. Copyright Office gives some additional guidance about photocopying materials in "Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians" Circular 21. The guidelines allow for multiple copies for one-time distribution to students in a traditional classroom as long as the following conditions are met:

  • Makes no more than one for each student
  • Includes notice of copyright (Could be as simple as adding, "This work may be protected by copyright.")
  • Is selective and sparing in choosing poetry, prose and illustrations
  • The copying should not replace a textbook, anthology, or purchase of books, reprints or journals
  • Consumable works, such as workbooks, exercises, and study guides, may not be reproduced
  • Makes no charge to the student beyond actual cost of photocopying: and
  • The copying meets the tests of "brevity," "spontaneity," and "cumulative effect."
    • Brevity: a short work or section of a work
    • Spontaneity: the copying is requested by the individual teacher and the decision to use the work is so close to the effective use in teaching that there is no time to seek permission.
    • Cumulative effect:
      • (1) the copying is only for one course in the school;
      • (2) not more than one short work or excerpts can be used from the same author and no more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume PER TERM;
      • (3) no more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one class during one term;
      • (4) newspaper articles and news sections of journals are exempted from the last two requirements.
  • Copying of the same item by the same teacher should not be repeated over several years

The TEACH Act of 2002 addresses the use of works in online teaching. It allows instructors to digitally share materials that would reasonably be shared in a physical class setting. To use copyrighted works in Blackboard or other online systems, the following criteria must be met:

  • Limit access to students currently enrolled in the class.
  • The use of materials has to be under the direct supervision of the instructor.
  • It has to be part of the class session and not something viewed before or after the class session; it must be part of a mediated instructional activity.
  • Prevent further copying or redistribution of the work beyond the class session.

The TEACH Act is not as broad as fair use. It only covers use of materials during class time. Fair use covers the use of materials outside of class time.

For more information about the TEACH Act and how it applies, see this overview from Columbia University and the Copyright Crash Course from the University of Texas. 

To use non-library resources for teaching you will most likely need to make a fair use evaluation of each resource or item used.

  • Fair use can be found in 17 U.S.C Section 107 (The Copyright Act).
  • The preamble to fair use provides that reproduction of copyrighted works may be made for "purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research..."
  • Fair use judgement made on a case-by-case basis. Not every educational use is a fair use. 

Fair use is based on a four-factor analysis

1. Purpose or character of the use (educational or professional)

2. Nature of the work (published vs. unpublished; factual vs. creative)

3. Amount and substantiality of portion used

4. Impact on the market for the work (including the market for permissions)

Use the fair use checklist from Columbia University to help you make an assessment. 

Use Library Resources!

Want to play it safe? The easiest and most copyright-friendly way to use materials for teaching is to use resources that have been licensed by the Belmont Libraries. See below for information on how to find and link to library resources.

Finding and linking to library resources

1. Use OneSearch (the search box on the library home page) to search for book titles. You may see multiple editions, so be sure to check the date to make sure you select the latest.

2. Click on the title of the book to view the complete record, where you will find the permalink. This is the easiest way to link to the entire book.

3. Alternatively, you could click the Full Text link to view the book in whichever database it's in so that you can provide a direct link to the full text or to a specific chapter or section of the book. This will require you to find the permalink, or in some cases, to create the permalink, depending on the database.

*More info coming on linking directly to ebooks in databases like AccessMedicine and ClinicalKey....

For now, see the Linking to Ebooks guide for information on linking to resources from other platforms.

More information coming soon on linking to articles in Medicine databases.

For now, see the Linking to Articles guide with information on several other Belmont databases.