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Copyright Issues

Covers copyright issues in the United States including: the basics, copyright law, TEACH ACT (copyright and distance education), fair use, and intellectual property.

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Persistent Links to Database Articles & Copyright

When you find a worthwhile reading or video for your course, you have several options on how to make this material available to your students. Among these are:

  • Making photocopies for each student or showing a video to students in your  F2F classes.
  • Putting articles, books, or videos on reserve in the library so students can view the material inside the library or make photocopies of the article or book chapters.
  • Downloading a copy of an article, book or video from the open Web or library database and loading it on your Blackboard course.
  • From Blackboard, linking directly to articles, books or videos available on the open Web or  library databases as well as embedding videos in your Blackboard course. 

Issues to consider:

When deciding on how to make course material available to students, issues include not only which option would be more convenient for you and your students but also which option falls within Fair Use copyright guidelines. Providing persistent URLs to articles, books or videos is a one-stop shopping option that allows the owner of the Web site or database vendor to handle the copyright issues.

What are persistent URLs?

Persistent URLs (PURL - Persistent Uniform Resource Locators) are also known by terms such as:

  • Permalinks (e.g., EBSCOhost databases)
  • Bookmark URLs (Gale databases)
  • Stable URLs (e.g., JSTOR database)

These are web addresses that remain consistent and seldom change over time. For example, the Reynolds Library home page can always be reliably reached at http://library.reynolds.edu. However, a link to an article in one of the library’s databases could change each time you try to access it (unless you know how to reconfigure it), because databases often create temporary session links at the moment you access them.

What are the advantages of using persistent URLs? 

  • Responsibility falls on the database vendor to handle the copyright issues. You don’t have to go through the hassle of getting the necessary permissions to: place copyrighted materials in the library’s reserves, photocopy the material or load the material on your Blackboard course site.
  • Familiarizes students with the library databases. Linking directly to articles, books, and videos in a database provides students the opportunity to see and use the database without having the added responsibility of evaluating and choosing the information from the database.
  • Students do not have to come to the library. They can access this material at anytime and from anywhere.

How long will persistent URLs stay active?

A persistent URL will remain active as long as Reynolds Library or our library consortiums (e.g., VCCS, VIVA) continue to subscribe to the given database. In other cases, a database vendor may reorganize its database collections, change their domain name or lose licensing rights to specific journal, book or video titles. It is advisable to check links occasionally to make sure they are still active.

Why should I use persistent links when I can simply copy an article into my Blackboard course?

The difference lies in the concept of making a copy. Material loaded into your Bb course site(s) are subject to U.S. copyright law (Title 17, US Code).

Example of abiding by fair use law:

    • A musician friend invites you to her house to listen to a song she has written.   

Examples of breaking fair use law: 

    • Making copies of a recorded song written by a musician friend and distributing the song to others without your friend's permission.
    • Breaking into your musician friend's car or house to steal and make copies of a song she recorded. Then distributing or selling copies of that song.

If you are invited to a musician friend's house to listen to a song she has written, then all the security concerns are your friend's. There is no way that you could be responsible for the distribution of unauthorized copies of the song, on purpose or by accident.

The above examples of breaking fair use law can be compared to downloading versus linking. If you link to the article, it is like going to the database's house to view the article. If someone hacks into the database's server and steals an article, book or video, it is not your fault. By linking into the database you are taking the necessary security measures to ensure that only authorized users can access this copyrighted material.

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