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Copyright

This guide will help you navigate U.S. copyright law in your scholarly activities.

Working with Print and Electronic Journal Articles

  1. How can I use the PDF and HTML files from electronic journals?
  2. Can I scan a paper copy and distribute it?
  3. Can I create a packet of photocopied articles for students? Is this a course pack?
  4. Can I create a database or collection of articles that I can share with students or colleagues?
  5. Can I post my own article to the Web?
  6. Can I make as many copies as I want of my own article?
  7. Do I have to seek permission to link to something on the Internet?

1. How can I use the PDF and HTML files from electronic journals?

For most articles, you are allowed to download the files for individual use only. Distributing these files to the public, sending them to colleagues, or even posting them on an internal website is generally prohibited. A good rule of thumb is to link to articles whenever possible; individuals within your institution will have access, those from another academic institution may also have access through their library, and anyone can access the article if it's open access.

Best Practices

  • In Blackboard, use the Library OneSearch+ Reading Lists feature for building electronic classroom content.
  • Save a copy for personal use only.
  • Link to the article you're sharing instead of posting the actual file.
  • Seek permission to create an electronic "course pack" from the Copyright Clearance Center or check the publisher's policy for electronic articles.
  • Contact the Library if you're unsure what you can do with a particular article.

2. Can I scan a paper copy and distribute it?

You are allowed to make a scan or photocopy of an article or book chapter for personal use, but most publishers do not allow scanning articles to distribute to others. Under fair use, you may post a scanned article for your class on a password-protected website like Blackboard once.

Best Practices

  • Scan one copy for your own personal use.
  • Seek permission if you want to use the article repeatedly over several years.
  • Seek permission if you want to distribute digital copies of the article to students or colleagues.

3. May I create a packet of photocopied articles for students? Is this a course pack?

Course packs are a collection of readings selected by an instructor and provided to students, in paper or electronically, at the beginning of a class. The use of course packs is in a legal grey area; after several major court cases, many educational institutions require that faculty members seek permission and pay royalty fees for articles distributed in course packs. In addition, some publishers do not allow for an electronic course pack.

If you are wondering whether your course pack is fair use, consider:

  • Is this the first time I've copied this article for use in a course pack?
  • Does the course pack replace a textbook, losing money for publishers?
  • Is the course pack electronic and easily distributable by students?
Best Practices
  • Link to assigned articles, or place books on reserve, and have the students make their own personal copies.
  • In Blackboard, use the Library OneSearch+ Reading Lists feature for building electronic classroom content.

4. May I create a database or collection of articles that I can share with students or colleagues?

You can create a collection or database of articles for your own personal use, but you may not make this available to students or other colleagues. However, you may create a database of links to electronic journals and books and share those links with colleagues and students.

Best Practices

  • Save references in RefWorks and share folders with colleagues and students at PCOM.
  • Keep databases or collections of articles only for personal use.
  • Create a list of links or citations to share with others.

5. May I post my own article to the Web?

If you are sure you own the copyright for it, then you are free to put the article on a website. However, most publisher agreements for authors transfer copyright to the publisher, placing restrictions on what the author can do with the article.

Many publishers do allow authors to post some version of the article on a digital repository (like PCOM's Digital Commons) or on their personal website; this can be limited to a preprint (the pre-peer review draft), postprint (the post-peer review, pre-journal formatting draft), or allow the published version. Most require a link to the publisher version of the article.

Best Practices

  • Check your agreement with the publisher and abide by those terms. If you're unsure what is allowed, contact the library.
  • Contact the library if you'd like to put your work in the Digital Commons@PCOM. A librarian will determine what version of the article can be posted.
  • If permitted, post and share your work! Put it on your website, course site, or the Digital Commons.
  • Make sure future agreements with publishers allow you to post your articles.

6. May I make as many copies as I want of my own article?

It depends on the publisher and the copyright agreement you have signed. Many publisher agreements sign over all copyright rights, including the right to distribute their own articles; some publishers, especially societies, explicitly allow authors to make copies of their articles.

Best Practices

  • Check your agreement with the publisher and abide by those terms.
  • Make sure future agreements with publishers allow you to make and distribute copies of your work.

7. Do I have to seek permission to link to something on the Internet?

You do not have to ask permission to link to anything on the Internet. However, if you plan to repeatedly refer to or permanently link to another site (particularly non-commerical websites), you may want to contact the website author or web manager to explain what and why you are linking. This not only helps the creator assess the value of their content and notify you if the URL is changing, it opens the possibility for collaboration.

Guide Information

Last Updated: Oct 25, 2022 7:19 PM
URL: https://libguides.pcom.edu/copyright