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Academic Integrity

Resources and information about academic integrity.

What is Copyright?

Please note that the information provided about copyright on this page pertains only to US Copyright Law. Different countries have different laws pertaining to copyright. The information on this page was created for educational use only and is not intended to be used as legal advice. 

Definition from the SCU Faculty Handbook:

'Copyright is a form of legal protection provided by federal law to the owners of "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device." Works that are not yet “fixed” (recorded in some permanent form) are protected by state law.

Copyright applies to such things as books and articles, novels, plays, musical creations, choreography, works of art, films, textbooks, software, and course materials. Course materials include materials prepared for use in teaching, fixed or unfixed, in any form, including, but not limited to: digital, print, audio, visual, or any combination thereof. In addition, course materials include, but are not limited to, lectures, instructor notes, syllabi, study guides, bibliographies, visual aids, images, diagrams, multimedia presentations, and on-line and hybrid course materials.

Subject to various exceptions and limitations, a copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, and display or perform the work publicly. It is illegal to violate any of the rights provided by law to the owner of copyright.'

What does that mean?

Copyright is granted to a creator when they make something in a tangible form--for example, a song, a movie, a book, a photograph, etc. Copyright doesn't protect ideas, but it does protect the work you create with your idea (provided it is original). You can read more on the 'What does copyright protect?' page on the US copyright website.

Copyright is intended to encourage the creation of new works by giving creators exclusive rights for set periods of time. These exclusive rights allows creators the opportunity to make money from their works, which incentivizes creators to continue making new works and generating new scholarship. Copyright owners have the exclusive right to: reproduce their work, distribute copies of or sell their work, and display their work publicly. These exclusive rights legally prevent the reproduction or reuse of these works without express permission from the copyright holder.

Does the creator of a work always own the copyright over a work?

Nope! In some cases, such as work for hire, copyright belongs to the person who paid for the work (for example, the university hires a photographer to work as a university employee and take photos for marketing). Additionally, a creator can sell the rights to their work (for example, an author can sell the movie rights of their novel to a production company). 

Additionally, copyright exists only for a certain period of time. Once that time expires, a work enters the public domain, which means anyone can use it (for example, many fairy tales are in the public domain--which is why there are so many movie versions of Cinderella!).

Where can I find more information on copyright?

We encourage you to visit the US Copyright website for all your US copyright research needs!

Fair Use Doctrine

What is Fair Use?

As per, the Fair Use doctrine allows for the "unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances." The following four factors are taken into consideration when determining if the use of copyright-protected works is considered Fair Use:

  1. Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes. Are you making money off of your use of the work? Are you changing the work in such a way that it is completely different from and does not serve the purpose of the original work?
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work. Is it a highly creative work, such as a novel, or a fact-based work?
  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. Are you just using a small excerpt, or are you providing an entire book? Are you using the 'heart' of a work, or are you using material that could be deemed supplementary?
  4. Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Are you harming the market for a work, for example, by providing something people would otherwise have to buy? 

Fair use claims are evaluated on a case-by-case basis; there is no "exact formula" to be used when determining whether a use of a work is considered Fair Use. 

Students and Copyright

Course Sharing Websites and Copyright Violations

SCU faculty and staff retain copyright over their teaching materials. Students who upload a faculty or staff member's teaching materials to course-sharing websites, such as Chegg, are violating copyright. Students who upload these materials are in violation of the Student Conduct Code. For more information about course-sharing websites in relation to academic integrity, please see the Course Sharing Websites page of this research guide, located on the left sidebar. Please also review the SCU Response on Copyright and File Sharing.

For what works do students retain copyright?

Different departments may have different rules regarding copyright and intellectual property rights over student works. We encourage you to reach out to members of your department if you have questions regarding the rights of scholarship of which you have helped to create.

Faculty and Copyright

For what works do faculty members retain copyright?

As per the SCU Faculty Handbook, faculty members retain copyright over most course materials and scholarship. Course materials may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • lectures, instructor notes, syllabi, study guides, and bibliographies
  • visual aids, images, and diagrams
  • multimedia presentations
  • on-line and hybrid course materials

There are some exceptions to materials for which a faculty member retains copyright; those exceptions are listed below.

For what works does the university retain copyright?

For the most part, faculty retain copyright over the works they create in regards to teaching and scholarship. However, the university does have the right to retain copyright over certain materials. The SCU Faculty Handbook describes the types of works created by university employees for which copyright is retained by the university:

  1. The work is a work-for-hire by the University. A work-for-hire is defined as a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment. Works of scholarship and works prepared for classroom use shall not be included in this category. The University shall own all rights in a work-for-hire unless the Provost or cognizant Vice President has relinquished them in writing.
  2. The work has been commissioned by the University. The University shall own all rights in a work it has commissioned provided that the parties so agree in writing.
  3. The work has been developed in the course of or pursuant to a sponsored project or other agreement between the University and a third party. The terms of the applicable third-party agreement shall govern the disposition of rights in copyright.
  4. The work is covered by other terms specified in a written agreement between the author and the University. In cases where the work has been developed with monetary support from the University but is not covered by points 1 through 3 above, the University may require a written agreement specifying the disposition of rights in copyright.