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Learn About Copyright



There are three exceptions to the exclusive rights in copyright that help serve educational needs:

Face-to-face teaching – Section 110(1)

Allows performance or display of protected material in a face-to-face teaching setting.

Must be in a classroom and at a non-profit educational institution.

Does NOT allow copying. This is an exception to the exclusive rights of performance and display, but not the right of reproduction.

Copying may still be allowed by fair use, however.

Performance and display in the classroom must employ a legally obtained copy – no “bootleg” copy is eligible for this exception, but borrowed copies are OK.

“Transmission” to registered students – Section 110(2), a.k.a. The TEACH Act
Allows digital copies in course management systems under a specific set of conditions.

Text and images may be transmitted (displayed) in amounts comparable to in-class teaching.

Music and video may be used in portions; entire songs may be used if “non-dramatic.”

Access must be restricted to students registered in the course, and notice that the material is protected must be given.

Technological measures to prevent the material from being retained after the course is over or copied to others are required. Streaming of music and video is a good way to meet this requirement.

The institution should have policies and educational programs about copyright in place to take advantage of this exception.

Fair Use – Section 107

A flexible exception that allows socially valuable uses of copyrighted material, including educational copying.

Fair use applies in many situations, but its application is never certain. A good faith decision in each situation is important.

Four factors are balanced to determine fair use:

  1. The purpose of the use should be for non-profit education. If the use adds to the original in some creative way (like commenting on a poem or making a parody), the fair use argument is stronger.
  2. Factual material is more susceptible to fair use; creative work like music and art gets stronger protection. Unpublished work also gets more protection
  3. Use only that amount of the original work that is necessary to accomplish the educational purpose.
  4. Avoid uses that substitute for purchasing available copies; damaging the market for the original counts heavily against fair use.


For a quick overview of what you can do with copyrighted material in the classroom, see the Know your Copyrights brochure from the Association of Research Libraries.

For more information about fair use, see this illustrative use case from the University of Texas.

For more information about the TEACH Act, see the TEACH Act Toolkit from North Carolina State University.





freedom to archive and reuse scholarly works on the Internet

In support of the self-archiving route to Open Access, the Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine (SCAE)provides a point-and-click way for scholars to retain rights over their published material that otherwise transfer to the publisher.

The SCAE is intended for authors who publish in a traditional, subscription-based journal yet still wish to make a copy of their article available on the Internet for download without most copyright and financial restrictions.

Using a simple Web form, authors choose the rights they want to retain and enter basic information like the name of the publisher and the title of the article. The Addendum Engine then generates a completed PDF copy of a one-page standard addendum allowing them to retain rights over the work that would otherwise be wholly forfeited.

The addenda each – at a minimum – enable authors to make their peer-reviewed articles available in an online repository and allow the material to be used in the author’s own works. After choosing and printing, authors simply attach the addendum to the copyright transfer agreement they submit to the publisher.

For more information about how you can integrate the Addendum Engine into your site, click here.

(See our FAQ for step-by-step instructions on how to use the Addenda and start retaining rights over your scholarly work.)


Currently we offer four Author’s Addenda in the Engine:

Science Commons / SPARC Addendum

Access – Reuse -

You retain sufficient rights to grant to the reading public a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license or similar license that allows the public to re-use or re-post your article so long as you are given credit as the author and so long as the reader’s use is non-commercial. This is a joint offering from Science Commons and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), founded by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). This amendment represents a new version of the former SPARC Addendum.

Other options from Science Commons
Immediate Access -

You retain sufficient rights to post a copy of the published version of your article (usually in .pdf form) online immediately to a site that does not charge for access to the article. (This is similar in many ways to the MIT Copyright Amendment below.)

Delayed Access -

You have the right immediately to post your final version of the article, as edited after peer review, to a site that does not charge for access to the article, but you must arrange not to make the published version of your article available to the public until six months after the date of publication.

Additional options from MIT

MIT Copyright Amendment -

Developed at MIT, this amendment is a tool authors can use to retain rights when assigning copyright to a publisher. It will enable authors to continue using their publications in their academic work at MIT, to deposit them into the MIT Libraries’ DSpace repository, and to deposit any NIH-funded manuscripts on the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central database. More information is available from theMIT Libraries.


The reason behind all this …

Although research indicated that the significant majority of scholarly publishers allow at least a form of self-archiving, journals offer different kinds of self-archiving rights. There is a confusing mix of different rights-to-archive: In what document format? Where? When?

There is also a proliferation of such addenda in reaction, with some research indicating that there are as many as eight or nine, and more potentially on the way.

The lack of explicit and uniform set of standards create fear, uncertainty and doubt. By using these standard agreements authors can ensure they retain enough rights to make their works available. And Science Commons is addressing the proliferation of addenda through its work with SPARC – producers of the most-used addendum – and by incorporating the MIT Amendment into the Engine.

Contracts between publishers and universities have long created a drag in the system, limiting the amount of scientific research and other scholarly resources that are made available freely to the public. The addendum generator seeks to counter this accessibility problem, offering authors a way to avoid forfeiting all of their rights over their scholarly works upon publishing.

For a more in depth look at the issues driving Science Commons’ work in this area, please read ourbackground briefing.