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BSCI, CRJ, & WGST Faculty: Library Services and Research Help

for Behavioral Sciences, Criminology & Criminal Justice, and Women's & Gender Studies Faculty

Your Copyright FAQs

How do I know if a book or article is copyrighted?

Copyright protection arises automatically the moment an original work is "fixed in a tangible medium of expression," in other words, the moment that text is written down or typed, or the moment a song is recorded.

A work does not need to be registered, published, or have a copyright notice on it to be protected by copyright. For works created in the U.S., copyright lasts from the moment a work is created until 70 years after the death of the author, except for works produced by a company/employer in which case the copyright lasts 95 years from the date of publication. Because copyright protection happens so easily, and lasts so long, you should assume that any work you want to use is copyrighted, unless it is very old or produced by the U.S. government.

Copyright has expired for most works published in the United States before 1927, which means they are in the public domain. You are free to use or reproduce works in the public domain however you want. In addition, some works published between 1927 and 1963 may also be in the public domain, but this can only be determined on a case-by-case basis. All works created after 1963 are under copyright, except for work produced by the U.S. government, and state constitutions and laws. 

Question answered with information from the University of Michigan Copyright Office.

Can I use copyrighted UM-Dearborn Library books and articles in my courses and my course Canvas sites?

If a book or article is available online through UM-Dearborn library, or already freely available elsewhere on the web, you can upload a link to it in Canvas. Use the URL Converter Tool to create links to the library's online journal articles and ebooks that will work off-campus.

If you want to use a UM Dearborn Library print book or article for your course, you should make it available to your students by putting it on Course Reserves.

Question answered with information from the University of Michigan Copyright Office.

Can I use copyrighted books and articles in my courses and course Canvas sites that aren't from UM-Dearborn library?

Fair Use (U.S. Code 107) allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder for purposes such as research and scholarship, teaching, criticism, parody, and news reporting. There are four factors to consider when determining whether your use is a fair one. You must consider all the factors below, even though all the factors do not have to be in favor of a use to make it a fair one.

For assistance in analyzing these factors, use the Fair Use Evaluator provided by the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy and Michael Brewer.

The four fair use factors are as follows:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work, such as whether the work is fiction or non-fiction, published or unpublished;
  3. The amount of the work used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, such as using a poem in its entirety, or using one chapter from a long book;
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for the copyrighted work.

Just because your use is for non-profit educational purposes does not automatically give you permission to copy and distribute other people's work. While many educational uses may be fair, you will probably need to evaluate your use each time you are reproducing copyrighted material — to show in your class, to hand out copies, to include in your writing, or to post in Canvas.

If it isn't Fair Use, then you need to ask for permission to use copyrighted materials. 

Question answered with information from the University of Michigan Copyright Office.

Can I make a copy of an out of print book not available for sale for my students to access in Canvas?

If a book is out of print and not otherwise commercially available, it may be permissible to copy a portion for students enrolled in Canvas. Keep in mind that out of print does NOT mean out of copyright. If the book is still under copyright, you'll still need to evaluate whether your use falls under Fair Use, and you'll still need to ask for permission to use it if it doesn't fall under Fair Use. Sometimes when a book goes out of print copyright reverts back to the author from the publisher, depending on the their contract. Contact the publisher first to find out who to get permission from. 

Question answered with information from the University of Michigan Copyright Office.

Can I show copyrighted DVDs or streaming videos in my class?

According to the UM-Dearborn Campus Policy for Commercial Videos, faculty can show a commercial video without an educational or public performance license when ALL of the following conditions are met:

  • The film or video is chosen by the instructor
  • It is shown in a face-to-face setting in a classroom
  • The content of the video is directly related, and of material assistance, to the teaching of the course
  • It is an integral part of the class session (it helps to include it in the course syllabus)
  • The showing is limited to students officially enrolled in the course
  • The film or video is lawfully obtained (i.e. not illegally downloaded)

Please consult the UM-Dearborn Campus Policy for Commercial Videos for more information about showing commercial videos in your classes.

What if I want to use a book, article, or documentary that I created?

Unless you created the work as part of your job as an employee or under contract as a work for hire, you are the author and the initial copyright holder. Please see University of Michigan policy 601.28 for details on the UofM framework for who holds copyright at the University.  

If you have transferred your copyright to someone else, such as a journal publisher, you are no longer the copyright holder and may not have any privileges to use the work. If you are not sure, you should consult your publishing agreement to see if you have retained any rights.

If you have not retained rights to use your work, then you must treat it like any other copyrighted work — decide whether the use you want to make is a fair use, and if it isn't, then ask for permission.  

Question answered with information from the University of Michigan Copyright Office

What if a website is posting my copyrighted book, article, or other material?

The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice and takedown process is a tool for copyright holders to get user-uploaded materials that infringes their copyright taken down from websites.. Follow these instructions from the Copyright Alliance to send your notice to the service provider who is responsible for the site. 

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