Copyright Resources

Copyright Basics

Most of the information in this guide applies regardless of whether you're a student or an instructor.  The law around copyright can be complicated but here are some basic ideas that can help:

  • Almost all works that have even the smallest amount of creativity are protected by copyright (except very old things published before 1928).  This includes all kinds of works like websites, videos, articles, blogs, etc, etc.
  • If something is protected by copyright, you can only use (copy, perform, display, make new works based on) it if you have permission from the copyright owner or your use has to be allowed by one of the exceptions in the law.
  • "Fair use" is the name of the exception that all people can use and that applies in a wide variety of situations.
  • There is also an exception called the "classroom exception" that lets you use things in certain ways in face-to-face classrooms.  Not in a face-to-face class?  Go back to fair use or getting permission.
  • The PCC Copyright Committee is happy to help you, don't hesitate to contact us.

Using Copyrighted Materials in Your Classes

Use the chart on the "Copyrighted Materials in the Classroom" page to see some basics about different kinds of material and how you can use them (or not) in both the face-to-face classroom and in online classes. 

In general, in a face-to-face class you can "perform or display" copyrighted works (like showing a video, playing a song, showing an image) without worrying about violating copyright. 

In online classes, you'll need to either link to things, use them with permission, or be using them under "fair use". Use the chart to help guide you and don't hesitate to email us for assistance!

(photo credit: School Girl Studying At Home by Scopio from

Copyright and Plagiarism

The relationship between copyright and plagiarism can seem complicated.  

Plagiarism is about using creative work without attribution ("giving credit"):  Plagiarism is using someone else's words (or other creative output) and claiming them as your own or otherwise not giving them credit.  It is to avoid plagiarism that we cite sources (among other reasons) and provide attribution for quotations and paraphrasing in our work.

Copyright infringement is about using creative work without permission. Copyright infringement happens whenever we use someone else's creative work without their permission.  Does that mean that every time we quote someone in our papers we need to ask for their permission?  No!  This is because the copyright law has a concept called "fair use" built into it.  You can read all about fair use elsewhere in this guide but the kind of quoting that you would do in a paper would nearly always be a fair use.  

Plagiarism v Copyright infringement

(the above is an adaptation of "Plagiarism vs Copyright Infringement" by MLauba is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)


So, it is possible to plagiarize without infringing copyright.  It is also possible to infringe copyright without plagiarizing.  

For more information about plagiarism and academic integrity, visit the Academic Integrity guide.

Showing Movies

seats in a movie theater, with a drink in one of the drink holdersWe are often asked by students or student clubs if it is okay to show a movie.  There are, basically, two contexts in which you could show a movie without public performance rights (the license that allows you to show a movie legally in public when you are not the copyright owner): in your private home (as long as you're not opening it to the general public or charging admission) or in a classroom as part of a class.  For virtually all other showings you will need have public performance rights in order to show a movie.

For more on this topic, see the Film Screenings page.


photo credit: Red Sets In Movie Theater With Drink by Thamrongpat Theerathammakorn from


Note-sharing websites

Instructors provide materials such as lecture slides, assignments and journal articles to help students learn in their courses. Often times, these materials are posted to D2L. They are protected by copyright so your use of them has to comply with the copyright law and PCC policies. 

Generally, these materials are provided to students for their own educational or research use. Students should not share them with other people or on the Internet without their instructor's permission.

On the other hand, if you take your own lecture notes (not verbatim or word-for-word of what your instructor said), you own copyright to your notes and can share them with other students. However, you should not share your exam answers or completed assignments that can help other students to cheat, as per PCC's Academic Integrity Policy