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Copyright Resources at WIU: Copyright Basics

This guide focuses on resources regarding copyright, fair use, and the TEACH Act. Also included are case scenarios. This guide is maintained by Michael Lorenzen in the University Libraries.

WIU Policy Links

Quick links to WIU policies on copyright and intellectual property rights.


Ultimately, instructors are responsible for obtaining permission to use materials in the classroom.

Please contact the following if you have questions concerning:

E-Reserves or Reserve Materials:

Access Services, Malpass Library (309-298-2759)

Copyright Questions:

Michael Lorenzen (mg-lorenzen @

Intellectual Property:

Shannon Sutton (309-298-1191)

Copyright Basics

As students and educators, you are probably faced with questions about how you can legally and ethically use materials created by others in your teaching and coursework.  Copyright law is designed to protect the rights of original authors and creators.  However, the law was also established to allow for the continued flow of news, information, criticism and education.  But making sense of what you CAN and what you CAN'T do can be a challenge.  In what cases can you fairly use copyrighted materials?  In what cases must you ask for permission?

This guide is designed as a collection of resources to make it easier to answer these questions.   

What is copyright?

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, "...copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the Unites States to the authors of original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works."  The protection is available to published and unpublished works.  Copyright gives the owner the right to make copies, prepare derivatives, record and distribute, and perform or display the works in public. 

The following resources provide additional information on copyright and who can claim copyright over original works:

What constitutes a copy?

Copying is the act of creating a physical copy, digital copy or "phonorecord" of the original work.  The following are examples of a copy:

  • A photocopy of a printed work.
  • A scan of a printed work or image.
  • Multiple printouts of an online article.
  • A video recording of a broadcast television show.
  • A song burned to a CD.
  • A duplicate or backup of a software program burned to a CD/DVD.
  • An image or document saved from the Internet and placed on a jump drive.

Is linking to an image or public website the same as copying?  In most cases, no.  Linking to an online document, image or web page is merely leading the viewer to the available resource.  While you should still cite and attribue the owner of the website, it is usually not required to ask permission to link to a publicly available website.

Linking to resources housed in paid subscription databases, however, are governed by the license agreements with the paid service.  Questions related to linking to these types of online resources should be addressed to University Libraries.

For additional resources, see the following: