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OFO Home > Asynchronous Online Courses > Handling Logistics > Obtaining Copyright Clearance
Obtaining Copyright Clearance

If you are planning to distribute copyrighted material via Blackboard, a coursepak, or play copyrighted material in a synchronous Web conferencing class, you need to get copyright clearance from the owner or publisher of the material. This information about Copyright and Copywrong from the ODU Libraries will help you determine what is and isnít copyrighted.

What materials are considered copyrighted?
If a work is in tangible form it is considered copyrighted. According to the Copyright Act, works that can be copyrighted include:
  • Literary works
  • Photographic, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Films and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Musical works
  • Dramatic works
  • Choreographic and pantomime works

Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created; and a work is created when it is fixed in a copy or phono-record for the first time.

You should always assume that any materials found on the Internet are copyrighted, unless stated otherwise. Do not assume that the material is not copyrighted just because you do not see a copyright notice. Always obtain permission (in writing) from the copyright holder before using their work on your course website.
If you are unable to obtain permission, do not use copyrighted materials unless the Fair Use Doctrine can be applied when using a portion of that material.

Fair Use Doctrine
Fair use is a defense to a claim of copyright infringement.  Fair use is a defense to copying another person’s work for academic and research purposes. 

  • There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. 
  • Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.
The ability to successfully rely on the fair use defense depends on the underlying facts of each case.  To determine whether your copying constitutes a fair use, courts apply a four-part test considering the:

Favoring Fair Use Opposing Fair Use
  • Teaching (multiple copies for classroom use)
  • Research/Scholarship
  • Criticism/Comment
  • News reporting
  • Transformative/Productive Use - to what degree the new work is transformed into something different from the original
  • Access restricted to instructor and students
  • Parody


  • Commercial use
  • Profit from use
  • Entertainment
  • Published Work
  • Factual/Non-fiction
  • Important to educational objectives
  • Unpublished Work
  • Work of a creative nature (art. music, novels, plays, films)
  • Fiction
AMOUNT (substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole)
  • Small quantity
  • Portion is not central to entire work
  • Appropriate amount for educational purpose
  • Large portion or whole work
  • Portion is central to the entire work
EFFECT (effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the work)
  • Use has purchased/lawfully acquired a copy of the original work
  • Single copy or few copies made
  • No significant effect on potential market for work
  • Permission/Licensing of work is easily available
  • Many copies made
  • Significantly impairs potential market (or could replace the copyrighted work in market)
  • Repeated or long-term use
  • Made available on the web or a public forum

Copyright Assistance
For assistance with copyright and software issues, please contact, 683-3172. Keep in mind that it typically takes several weeks to identify copyright permission and software installation needs. So, please begin this process early.


Other copyright references: