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Faculty Information

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a legal protection for content creators that grants the exclusive right to publish, share, disseminate, perform, or modify their works. Copyright is an important protection that provides incentive to creators for the creation of new works that are fixed in a tangible form, such as the printed word or visual media.

When working at an academic institution or teaching a class, we all must be aware of copyright laws and how they apply to Carlow. A breach of copyright law can result in a lawsuit or a massive financial penalty for the University, so we all share a responsibility for maintaining copyright compliance. Below you will find more information on some exceptions to copyright law, or for using copyright protected material in an educational setting.

Fair Use

Google defines fair use as "the doctrine that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder." Fair use is part of copyright law. We may expect all instances in education to fall under fair use, but that is not always true.


When determining whether your use is fair use, please consider the four factors:

  1. The purpose and character of your use. 
    Is your usage of the copyright protected work new and/or derivative? Are you expanding on their work and providing your own touch?
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
    Does this work benefit the public? When using copyright protected works in education, the answer to this question is often "yes."
  3. The amount and sustainability of the portion taken.
    Are you using no more than is necessary for instruction? Generally, less is more. Use only the portion of the work that is relevant to accompanying instruction.
  4. The effect of the use upon potential market.
    Are you depriving the copyright holder of income?

Copyright Compliance with Library Links

Through our subscriptions, the library has the right to share material that we own or subscribe to. It may not be legal for you to download a copy of a PDF and distribute it, but it is legal for you to link to the library content for other Carlow users to access that material themselves. Because it is better to be safe than sorry, we strongly encourage everyone at Carlow, including faculty, to share library materials using library links.

Here are the instructions to do that, and for embedding that content into a course site on Celtic Online.


Step 1

  • When you find a resource using the Library Search (from the library main page) that you would like to share on CelticOnline, you will need to copy the Link from the database record. 

When Link is clicked, a window appears with the permalink already highlighted and ready to be copied with the right click of the mouse.

Step 2

  • Once you have copied the web address from the database, login to your CelticOnline course site and select the Add File/Link/External Tool option under the Add Materials menu. 

  • A small box will appear and select Link. 

  • Enter in the title of the article in the Name field.
  • In the URL field, paste in the link that you copied from the database record. 
  • Click the Add button.
  • Students will now see a link to the article when they open your course on CelticOnline. 

When this link is selected from within your CelticOnline course site, the student will be directed to login through the off-campus access page with their Carlow Active Directory username and password. After logging in s/he will be taken directly to the resource. If the student is on campus, they will be taken directly to the article without having to login. 

Public Domain and Sharing Licenses

Public Domain

When material is part of the "public domain," the copyright holder no longer has exclusive rights to share and distribute that content, and those rights then belong to everyone. Material is usually copyright protected unless it is in the public domain. There are very specific circumstances for when a copyright protected material enters the public domain. In general, assume a material is copyright protected unless you have evidence to the contrary.

  • Works published before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain.
  • Works published or created between 1923 and 1978 may or may not be in the public domain. (See Peter Hirtle's Public Domain Chart)
  • Works created by the US Federal Government are in the public domain.
  • Works can be placed in the public domain by the rightsholder.

License to Share, Disseminate, or Modify

Sometimes copyright protected materials have a license that allows the public to legally share, disseminate, or modify the works. Some examples of these licenses are Creative Commons or Open Access licenses. Also, check the terms of use for material to which you subscribe. Sometimes the licenses and terms allow for sharing, disseminating, or modifying in particular circumstances.


Creative Commons License - A license that allows for the sharing, disseminating, or modifying of copyright protected material, for commercial and/or nonprofit use.

Open Access License - A license that allows for scholarly research to be freely available online. Open Access licenses do not allow for the copying, disseminating, or modifying of copyright protected works beyond that which falls under fair use.

Grace Library's Copyright Policies

See the Grace Library Policy Manual for the Copyright Policy (page 9) and the Film Use Policy (page 10).