When you hold copyright in a work, you have the right to determine where your work is published, who has access, and whether and how it can be re-used. When you publish your work, you may be asked to give away the rights to your work through a publishing agreement, or copyright transfer agreement. If you simply transfer your copyright, this will have consequences for how you can use your own work in future: you may not be able to distribute copies of your work to your students and colleagues, adapt your work in a future publication, or even share your work on a course website, digital repository, scholarly profile site, or personal website.
Two important points to remember:
Find information about how you can protect your rights as author on our Open Access guide.
License Your Work
If you choose to release your work openly without going through a traditional publisher—such as uploading it to a digital repository; publishing it to a blog or profile site; or posting it on a personal website—you can specify the terms under which others can use your work by applying a license. Some of the most common open licenses are Creative Commons licenses.
You can re-use material created by others if one of the following is true:
From the United States Copyright Office: "Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances." (Source: https://www.copyright.gov/fair-use/more-info.html)
When you are trying to decide whether or not your use of others' work is covered under fair use, you will need to consider the four factors of fair use:
|Factor 1: Purpose & Character of Your Use||If you are using this work in a way that changes the nature or purpose of the original work, or if your use of the work is educational or for the purposes of criticism, commentary, scholarship, or research, you are more likely to be covered by fair use. You are also more likely to be covered by fair use if you are using copyrighted material for non-consumptive research, such as text and data mining. If your use is commercial, or you are going to profit from the use of a work, then you are less likely to be covered by fair use.|
|Factor 2: Nature of Their Work||If the work you are using is more creative in nature (e.g. an original image), you are less likely to be covered by fair use than you are if it is less creative (e.g. a table of data). If the work you are using is unpublished, you are more likely to be covered by fair use than you are if it is unpublished.|
|Factor 3: Amount of the Work Taken||How much of the original work are you using? If it is a small or insubstantial amount (typically 10% or less, or an amount that does not contain the main substance of the work) you are more likely to be covered than if you are taking a larger or more significant portion of the work.|
|Factor 4: Market Effect of Your Use||If you distribute the original work widely, you could effect sales of the work itself. Therefore, if you are distributing the work online, you are more likely to be covered by fair use if you are sharing on a password protected site (like a Canvas page) with a link, rather than a download of the full text. If you are distributing copies of the work physically, you are more likely to be covered by fair use if you provide instructions to students not to further distribute the work. If you can buy or license the original work at a fair price, then you are less likely to be covered by fair use.|
For a colorful flowchart with this information, download the "Fair Use for Faculty Flowchart" below.
If you do not think you are covered by fair use, you should consider the following:
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According to WPI's Intellectual Property Policy, you retain the copyright to academic and scholarly works you create. You also retain the copyright to materials you develop for courses and curriculum at WPI, while granting WPI a nonexclusive license to use your work for educational and research purposes in the future. There are some exceptions to the above; consult the policy to learn more.
For questions about the Intellectual Property Policy and how it covers your work, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-831-5725.