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Copyright Guide

A guide on resources for the basics of copyright including fair use, the TEACH Act, Creative Commons and other copyright issues for help in learning more about copyright. Nothing in this guide is to be construed as legal advice.


Welcome to the Merritt College Library's Copyright Guide. The purpose of this guide is to support the Merritt College community in responsible and legal use of copyrighted materials. It provides guidance for faculty and students. This guide is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for consultation with an attorney.

Copyright can be complex.This guide is designed to help you make informed decisions when using, creating, and sharing information with others. 


timeline of copyright in US

Copyright Timeline: A History of Copyright in the United States

A history of American copyright law by the Association of Research Libraries.

What is copyright?

Copyright protects original works for many of the things that we use in education such as books, poems, blog posts, movies, plays, paintings, photographs, illustrations, music, computer programs and more. Works are original when they are independently created by a human. The creator of the work is the copyright owner. However, academic authors have traditionally transferred their copyright interests to the publishers that publish their works, although this is changing to an open access model where the author(s) retain copyright ownership.

Copyright ownership lasts for decades. For example, works created on or after January 1, 1978, have a copyright term of life of the author plus seventy years after the author’s death. Works created before 1978 likewise have extensive copyright protections that vary depending on their creation date.

Copyright law gives the owner exclusive rights to the use of and distribution of their work. These rights give the owner control over who can copy works, distribute copies, make derivative works, and publicly perform or display works. Copyright owners can grant rights to the public for use of their work. Using a Creative Commons license is an example of this.

There are a couple of exceptions for teachers. One is fair use, which allows a limited amount of copying for classroom use. The other is the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act, which was created to address distance education instructional needs.

If your use falls outside the exceptions, then you need to obtain permission from the copyright owner in order to use their work.

Peralta Community College District Copyright Policy

The Peralta Community College District addresses copyright policy in Administrative Procedure 3720 (AP 3720) Telephone, Computer and Network Use. This applies to all Peralta Community College District students, faculty, staff, administrators, consultants, authorized guests, and to any other persons granted use of District information resources.