The following are common questions that UCSB librarians receive from students and faculty.


Can I use copyrighted material that I find online as course materials for the classes I teach?

There are specific exemptions for educational use of copyrighted material. Under Section 110 of the copyright law and the TEACH Act of 2002, you can use copyrighted material, including digital works, at a “non-profit educational institution” for face-to-face teaching in a regular class. University of Texas, Austin has a checklist that lists all the conditions, which the TEACH Act can be applied.

An alternative to dealing with copyright restrictions is to look for high-quality open educational materials -- materials that are labeled as free to use -- as well as other materials with Creative Commons licenses, where the copyright owner indicates exactly how the material can reused.

Can I use copyrighted material that I find online in my dissertation?

Materials on the Internet have the same copyright restrictions as anything else. You can only use copyrighted material that you find online if:

  • you have been granted permission
  • the material has a Creative Commons license or accompanying rights statement that specifies the reuse rights
  • you are applying fair use; see "The Fair Use Exemption" under Copyright Basics

How do I obtain permission to use copyrighted material?

Send an email or letter to the copyright owner explaining what you want to use and how you intend to use it. Legal language is not required. Always save your communications pertaining to permissions: request letters or emails, and responses. Instrucitons for obtaining permission to use copyrighted work, and sample permission letters are here.

I like to share examples of student work.  Can I use the work of former students in my classes?

Students own the copyright to their work. Teaching assistants and faculty must obtain a student’s permission before using student work in a course, presentation, publication, etc.


How do I find material that is not protected under copyright and does not require permission to use?

There are multiple options:

  • Material in the public domain is not protected under copyright. Publication type, date published, and the date of the author’s death are some of the factors that determine whether a work is in the public domain. For more details see: Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States.
  • Works with Creative Commons (CC) licenses can be reused without requesting permission from the copyright owner. There is CC licensed material all over the Web. Start your search here.
  • Also note that the Library provides access to copyrighted materials for the UCSB community and encourages students, faculty and staff to use these materials for teaching and research.
  • The Library can help you access ebooks, ejournals, streaming music, videos, and more to add to online syllabi, GauchoSpace, and Course Reserves. To learn how to provide easy access to the Library’s licensed content go to the Course Reserves webpage. Your subject librarian and Course Reserves staff can work with you to find and provide easy and free access to Library materials for use in courses.


What do I do if I'm a victim of copyright infringement?

If it is a situation where the infringement act can be corrected, you can contact the person and request that they cease and desist. If you anticipate a legal dispute, the US Copyright Office recommends that you register your copyright as soon as possible, if you haven’t already. The timely registration of a copyright allows you to pursue statutory damages such as monetary relief and the recovery of attorney fees. For more details see the infringement section of the U.S. Copyright Office website.


Should students contibute course materials to sites like StudyBlue?

UCSB discourages students from using websites such as StudyBlue, StudySoup, and Course Hero. Lecture notes, powerpoint slides, and exams are copyrighted materials. Sharing such materials online without permission from the creator(s) is a violation of copyright law.

Furthermore, UC Policy 102.23 prohibits anyone, including students, from recording lectures or discussions and from distributing or selling lectures notes and all other course materials without the prior written permission of the instructor.


How do I obtain permission to use copyrighted material? Can I digitize copyrighted materisl for a study group or class that I'm teaching.

Digitizing something constitutes distribution, so you can only digitize material that is in the public domain or if you are digitizing it and using it in a amanner that constitutes an exception to copyright law, such as fair use - see "The Fair Use Exemption" under Copyright Basics.


How do I obtain permission to use copyrighted material? do I need to worry about foreign materials or international laws?

Copyright terms differ from country to country. When in the United States, U.S. copyright law is applied to works produced outside the U.S. Read more about international copyright law here.


Can I photocopy or scan an entire book?

No. Copying an entire book would not be using the copyrighted material fairly because it would undercut the market for the book and the author’s earnings from the book.


How do I obtain permission to use copyrighted material? Can I make my reader available on electronic, GauchoSpace, or my course website?

No. Duplicating and distributing copyrighted material electronically is a violation of copyright law. As the UCSB Library Course Reserves webpage explains, “If you wish to make your course reader available to your students through the Library, you must submit to the Services Desk bound copies that have been packaged by a document duplication service.”  The TEACH Act excludes course readers. Read more information on Course Reserves Limitations and Copyright Restrictions.

It is very likely that the articles or chapters in your course reader are available through UCSB Library’s vast collection of article databases and ejournal subscriptions. Consult the ejournals list or the Library Catalog to determine if the Library has already licensed the materials you want to use in your course. Using Library materials, whenever possible, can significantly reduce the cost of your course reader for students. Your subject librarian and Course Reserves staff can work with you to find and provide easy and free access to Library materials for use in courses.


Can I distribute an article to all the members of a listserv, without requesting permission form the copyright holder?

No. Distribution of any copyrighted materials is an infringement. Of course, if the article is published in an Open Access journal, you can share a link with anyone and everyone. Click here to learn more about open access publications.

Also note, if you are the author of the article and a UCSB employee, under the UC open access policies, you retain the rights to your work published in subscription journals and can share your manuscript of the article or the article permalink in eScholarship. Some publishers will allow their authors to share the publisher’s PDF with a certain number of people. If necessary, consult your publication agreement.


How do I obtain permission to use copyrighted material? I want to publish a book usinf copyrighted images.

The Library’s Digital Production Services unit provides scanning services for UCSB faculty and students for personal use. It is the responsibility of students and faculty to ensure they are not using the scanned copy in a manner that violates the copyright owner’s rights.