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Faculty Services: Introduction to Copyright at PA

The purpose of this OWHL Guide is to inform the faculty of library resources and services as well as ways they can incorporate different resources into their courses.

Copyright Decisions


This  is intended to help faculty and staff members at Phillips Academy efficiently make decisions regarding the use of intellectual property in the course of their teaching and learning.


The standard procedure for making copyright decisions at PA has up to four steps.

First, Determine whether the material you want to use is subject to copyright. Material in the Public Domain and material available with Creative Commons or other Open Access licenses may be freely used. 

Second, If the material is subject to copyright, determine whether you have the rights to use it. Material contained within our subscriptions may be used without permission under certain conditions. The Academy's annual copyright license also provides access to many additional copyrighted materials.

Third, if the material is subject to copyright and not available through a subscription, or included under the annual copyright license, the use may still be permissible under the Fair Use exemption.

Finally, if no avenue for compliant use is available through any of the first three steps, individual permission may be sought through the Copyright Clearance Center.

In most cases, the departmental administrative assistant is the point person for securing permissions. Let us know if you have any questions about copyright and we will be happy to assist you.

Is the work in the Public Domain?

Intellectual property rights don't last forever.  They are subject to term limits.  You may not need permission to use the work.  Use the Public Domain Slider to determine if your work falls into the Public Domain.  Read about the Public Domain in the award- winning graphic novel, Bound by Law.

Is the work covered by a Creative Commons or other open license?

Creative Commons is "a vast and growing digital commons, a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law."  The default for copyright is "all rights reserved."  Creative Commons provides content creators with the tools they need to waive some or all of those rights, in the interest of universal access to information, and full participation in culture.

Is it covered in the Annual Content License?

Our subscription to CCC's Annual Copyright License provides a single, multi-use license for the use of copyright-protected content from participating publishers.


Here’s how to verify coverage under your Annual Copyright License:
1. Go to the Annual Copyright License search page:
2. Search for a publication:

  1. Enter the Publication Title or Standard Number (ISBN/ISSN) of the publication that you wish to use.
  2. Under “Annual License – Academic” in the Display Options box you will see pre-selected permissions options.
  3. Click the “Search” button.

3. Verify coverage:
In the search results, the most frequently requested publications are displayed first. To view the coverage available for the permission types selected, click the “View selected permissions options” link. Results will be identified as follows:

  1. A green check indicates that the work is covered by CCC Annual License.
  2. A red circle with a diagonal strike line indicates that the work is not covered

If you have questions or need help, contact your departmental administrative assistant or the OWHL!

Is Your Use a "Fair Use?"

According to Stanford University, "In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. "  A case can be made that much, if not all, teaching is "transformative."  Fair Use is an essential element in a balanced application of copyright, where the promotion os "science and the useful arts" is as important as the protection of intellectual property rights.

What if you do need permission?

If you have exhausted all of the options for legally using copyrighted material and you find that you still need permission, Copyright Clearance Center also provides a "Pay per Use" service.  The History and Social Sciences Department has used this service extensively, and individuals in that department may be able to help you get started.