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Copyright, Intellectual Property, and Plagiarism

A brief guide for students and faculty on the differences and similarities of intellectual properties, including copyright, and their resposibilites when using intellecutal properties

Copyright Description

Copyright covers original artistic and literary works of authorship both published and unpublished and guarantees exclusive rights for a limited term to the creator. Copyright is loosely defined at the federal level, Title 17 of the U.S. Code (17 U.S.C.), and is based in Article I, Section 8, U.S. Constitution. 

“...To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

The language of the law is vague and nuances are set by precedent determined in case law.

Fair Use

Fair use is determined by case law (case by case basis) and usually determined using four factors

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

By and large as a student you are protected from copyright infringement by fair use for school work for the following reasons:

  • Students hold the copyright for any original or creative work they created in the course of study.  
  • Text Homework: For the most part you will not be selling your works created as school work. However, most written assignments will require a works cited page or bibliography for attibution. 
  • Video: you may be required to view films for class assignments these will be the responsibility of your instructor. However, should you desire to show a film for a club or social event you will need performance rights for films streamed from sites with paywalls or films on dvds available for purchase.

Single copies of the following list are allowed for instructors for scholarly research or for and in preperation of instruction:

  • A chapter from a book
  • An article from a periodical or newspaper
  • A short story, short essay or short poem, whether or not from a collective work 
  • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper

Multiple copies of text material for distribution to students must follow these guidelines:

  • The copying meet tests of brevity and spontaneity 
  • Meets the cumulative effect test 
  • Each copy includes a notice of copyright

All in-class video viewing must follow these guidelines. For online classes please see the TEACH Act.

  • A lawfully made and acquired film
  • Which is "regular part of systematic instructional activities"
  • Must be viewed in a classroom or "similar place devoted to instruction,” i.e. on campus

For more information or to find the tests suggested above please visit Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians by the United States Copyright Office.

Public Domain

Items in the Public Domain are materials that are no longer protected by copyright or rights were never held for the item. No permissions are needed in order to use the item. 


The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act or TEACH Act protects instructors who want to use protected intellectual property for distance or online learning. Instructors must follow these guidelines for the use of any material to truly be covered by the TEACH Act:

  • Limit access to the students currently enrolled in the class
  • Allow access to students only during class or for asynchronous classes, only allow for time periods comparable to in-person classes. Items can be accessed multiple times during the course. 
  • Maintain the copyright protection mechanisms in place on the item 
  • Inform students of copyright laws and Dunwoody’s policies
  • Prevent dissemination of item beyond students enrolled in class
  • Material is not a digital education resource or intended for purchase by individual students by publisher.
  • Material may be used in full if it is a nondramatic performance or display, including but not limited to:
    • A sound recording of a literary or musical work
    • Music recording of symphony
    • Still images or photographs
    • Materials acquired by license for display in full
  • Dramatic audio/visual materials may be used in “reasonable and limited portions” for distance learning that in-person classes may use in full.