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This guide is intended for informational purposes only. Library staff members cannot give legal advice. For legal advice, our users must contact an intellectual property attorney. Legal counsel for Calvin is Randy Vogelzang, Director of Gift Planning and Major Gifts. (

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.

Copyright Course Planning Checklist

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 and you may use freely). 
    • Does it qualify for Fair Use (you may use portions of copyrighted works for educational purposes only)?
    • Is it available through the library or open access collections (open access and library materials will offer free access but may be subject to licensing or contract restrictions such as number of users logged in at one time or limited checkout periods)?
    • Is it available through Calvin's Copyright Clearance database (Calvin pays for access to a body of copyrighted texts for educational use, which you can search for through RightFind)?
  • 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.
  • Consult the library's OER Guide. We've compiled lists of resources for finding open education textbooks and also open access repositories like the Internet Archive -- use these suggestions to find materials for class available copyright-free online.
  • 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. 
  • Contact your liaison librarian for further help and other options for course materials, though we cannot always guarantee access to a specific resource. 

Copyright Faculty Guide

To explore copyright terms and concepts in more detail, check out our Copyright Faculty Guide or bring your questions to your liaison librarian.