Guide to Using Hekman Library Online

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Copyright Guide


We continue to update the FAQ based on questions received from Calvin faculty. While we cannot guarantee access to every specific resource that you request, we are committed to helping you explore your options, both as creators and users of information, within the scope of copyright law.

Considering Copyright in Your Courses

The purpose of copyright comes from the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, clause 8. It states: "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."

What do you need to know about navigating copyright for your courses? Here's a quick checklist of action points for you to move through as you prepare instruction around copyrighted materials:

  • Consider your informational needs thoroughly - ask whether you need all or part of a particular work to be shared among the entire class or a portion of your class and whether for a limited time or for the length of the course. This may help the librarians identify the correct way to use your copyrighted sources or alternative sources if your first choices are not available.
  • Keep in mind that having alternative sources or considering other ways to structure your assignments can give you more flexibility and options for your course.
  • If posting materials online via Moodle, first ask yourself:
    • Is this material copyrighted? (If in the public domain, it does not fall under copyright protection). 
    • Is it subject to a licensing agreement or contract (as in library-purchased, subscription database content)?
    • Does it qualify for Fair Use?
  • Use the Copyright Clearance Center's RightFind Academic to search for your desired source(s) and see if they are in the database. If so, it's likely you may use the source without having to seek permission. You will first need to set up a free account in RightFind. 
  • Also search for your sources in the Hekman Library. Many materials are already online, such as journal articles or e-books, and may be shared by posting their permalinks in your Moodle or Canvas course pages.
  • Contact your liaison librarian for further help and other options for course materials, though we cannot always guarantee access to a specific resource. 

Understanding Copyright

Copyright involves a complex network of legal protections for published works. While these are in place to restrict use of these works while protecting the rights of the creators, there are a few particular exemptions for educational use. Here are a few definitions of the major policies, standards, and tools to help you better understand copyright compliance:

  • Fair Use - allows the use of copyrighted works without permission under specific limitations for solely educational purposes (only brief excerpts, available for the duration of the course to only eligible students and instructors, with full attribution)
  • Public Domain - consists of works that are ineligible for copyright protection and are available to anyone to use without permission (typically, works published before 1924, works published between 1924-1964 but have not renewed their copyright, and works created by the US government or otherwise made available to public domain by their creators)
  • Creative Commons - specifically licensed works with levels of permission for use granted by the creators, which may require attribution and different restrictions on changing and sharing the work
  • Copyright Clearance Center license - provides reproduction and distribution rights for a large catalog of copyrighted materials (does not cover reproduction of entire works, the right to use or change a work, the right to use work for promotion, or the right to share beyond the campus community)
  • RightFind Academic - search tool to look up sources available under our CCC license