Copyright at Messiah University

Copyright at Messiah University

Messiah University recognizes and respects intellectual property rights. As part of our mission to maintain the highest standards for ethical conduct, we are committed to fulfilling our moral and legal obligations with respect to our use of copyright-protected works.

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Copyright is the exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise control the use of certain creative and intellectual works to ensure that the creators maintain the integrity of their works and receive any financial benefit from their use, while making those works available to the public for knowledge and entertainment. The rights are granted exclusively to the copyright owner to reproduce the material (thus, literally the copy rights), and for some material, the right to perform or show the work to the public (essentially reproducing or “copying” the works in a different format).

Works covered by copyright include books, artistic works, computer software, sheet music and sound recordings, films, multimedia works, newspapers, magazines, dissertations, research papers, photographs, and cartoons, among other things. The copyright law grants owners of copyright (authors, other creators, publishers) the sole right to do the following:

  • reproduce all or part of the work
  • distribute copies (including by transmission via the internet)
  • prepare new (derivative) versions based on the original work
  • perform the work publicly
  • display the work publicly

Copyright protection covers both published and unpublished works. The fact that a previously published work is out-of-print does not affect its copyright. This protection exists to foster and induce the creation of all forms of works of authorship.

To create a balance between the interests of those who develop intellectual and creative works and those who benefit from using those works, copyright law includes exceptions that limit the exclusive rights of copyright holders. One such exception is fair use, which allows users of copyrighted works to copy small parts of those works under certain circumstances without seeking permission or paying royalties. Fair use is probably the most important exception for educational settings, allowing many uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching and research. 

Fair use is not a straightforward concept.  Rather, any fair use analysis must be conducted on a case-by-case basis, considering the factors and circumstances of the situation at hand.  When in doubt, obtain permission to avoid any potential legal challenges brought by copyright holders. Here is a chart to help determine fair use:

For this factor...

It is more likely to be fair use if...

It is less likely to be fair use if...

  • Not for profit
  • An educational use
  • A transformative rather than a mere reproduction of the original work
  • For a profit
  • Not an educational use
  • NOT a transformation but a reproduction of the original work
  • A more factual work
  • A more creative/ original work
  • Only small portions relative to the whole work, which are used
  • Directly relevant to the educational purpose
  • Substantial portions or the entirety of the work are used
  • The heart of the work
  • Not directly relevant to educational objectives
  • Of little economic impact
  • Of direct economic impact on an existing or potential market for the work

Messiah University Fair Use Evaluation Tool

Other helpful resources on fair use


Messiah University expects all members of the campus community to respect and comply with copyright law
(Title 17 of the United States Code). The principles of copyright law govern the making of photocopies or other reproductions or adaptations of copyrighted material. The making of an electronic copy of a copyrighted work
by any means (i.e., scanning, digitizing, etc.) constitutes reproduction that is governed by copyright law.

The copyright principles that apply to materials posted electronically through CANVAS are the same as those
that apply to printed course materials. The reproduction or copying of a work subject to copyright protection
normally requires the permission of the copyright owner. If permission is required for the use of printed course materials, it is required for electronic use.

The digital age has made it possible for course content to be available in a wide variety of ways, and instructors
often can choose among several different formats to make materials available to students. If it is possible to
link to material that is publicly available on the web or available to the Messiah campus community through
a Murray Library database, further permission is not needed.

Similarly, a work can be used without obtaining permission when the work is in the public domain under
the copyright law, i.e., expiration of copyright term or works prepared by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person’s official duties. A work also may be freely used if it is offered under a Creative Commons license.

For other works, use still may be possible without permission of the copyright owner if the contemplated use of the material constitutes a “fair use” under copyright law. To determine whether “fair use” might apply, the following four factors must be considered and weighed:

  • The purpose and character of the use;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

No one factor—including nonprofit educational use—is determinative of whether a given use is “fair use.” “Fair use” requires a fact-specific analysis that should be considered carefully whenever deciding whether or not permission is required.


The following guidelines apply to the posting of course materials via CANVAS:

  • All electronic CANVAS course materials will only be for the non-commercial, educational use by Messiah University students enrolled in the particular course for which the materials are posted.
  • Passwords will be used to limit access to copyrighted content in CANVAS to students enrolled in the course or other individuals requiring access to the course materials for purposes of conducting the course. The availability of such content to students should terminate when the students have completed the course.
  • No one should post course content consisting of copyrighted works or portions of such works in electronic form without first either:
    1. obtaining the permission of the copyright owner or
    2. concluding, after reasonable inquiry, that the use qualifies as a fair use or other exempt or licensed use for which permission is not required.
  • Before posting course content consisting of copyrighted works or portions of such works in electronic form, the instructor should consult with the department’s librarian liaison to determine whether the University has a current license for access to digital versions of the copyrighted material. If it does, the citation and link to the electronic version of the material will be added to the course page to provide direct access to the requested material.
  • It is preferable to link to copyrighted materials already legally available at another site rather than scanning or making a digital copy.
  • Course materials owned by the instructor, such as syllabi, lecture notes, or exams, may be copied and distributed electronically to students enrolled in the course through CANVAS.
  • The electronic distribution of consumable copyrighted works, such as textbooks, workbooks, handouts, and exercises, requires permission from the copyright owner.
  • Copies of copyrighted works, regardless of their format, should always include proper attribution and copyright notices.
  • Generally, electronic course content may be included in CANVAS without obtaining permission as long as it is the first time the material is utilized by the instructor for the course, and the request does not exceed these guidelines:
    1. One chapter (or equivalent) from a book
    2. One journal or newspaper article (or equivalent)
    3. An excerpt from a prose work that does not exceed more than 10% of the work
    4. One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture per book or per journal issue

Additional or continued use also may constitute fair use, but each situation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether fair use applies to the contemplated use.

IT'S Ethical: Respecting the rights of copyright holders is simply the right thing to do. To the extent copies are made without permission, publishers and authors, including educators, are deprived of revenues in the very markets for which they have written or published. 

IT'S THE LAW: As stated in the Copyright Act, it is unlawful to infringe on the rights of copyright holders. Copyright holders can sue offenders for damages or to recoup lost profits as a result of infringement. As compliance and the protection of intellectual property continue to make headlines, copyright holders and law enforcement are monitoring and paying closer attention.


The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA), includes provisions that are designed to reduce the illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted works through peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. This statute and the federal regulations which interpret it require that a university will:

     A. Develop and implement written plans to effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material by users of the institution’s network, without unduly interfering with the educational and research use of the network. The plans must include:

a. One or more technology-based deterrents;

b. Mechanisms (including distribution of the annual disclosure described in Requirement C below) for educating and informing its community about appropriate versus inappropriate use of copyrighted material;

c. Procedures for handling unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including disciplinary procedures; and

d. Procedures for periodically reviewing the effectiveness of the plans to combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials by users of the institution’s network using relevant assessment criteria.

B. “To the extent practicable,” offer legal alternatives for downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material. Periodically review the legal alternatives for downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material, and make the results of the review available to its students through its Website.

C. Make annual disclosure informing students of institutional policies and sanctions related to copyright infringement, including—

a. A statement that explicitly informs its students that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject the students to civil and criminal liabilities;

b. A summary of the penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws; and

c. A description of the institution’s policies with respect to unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, including disciplinary actions that are taken against students who engage in illegal downloading or unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials using the institution’s information technology system.

This document outlines Messiah University’s plan to comply with these requirements.

Technology-Based Means to “Effectively Combat” the Unauthorized Distribution of Copyrighted Material

Messiah University employs the following technology-based deterrents to unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material:

  • We have the ability to shrink or block traffic to/from certain destinations when warranted
  • We follow a rigorous program of accepting and responding to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices. The University’s policies and procedures concerning the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and our response to infringement claims are found on the University Website at Alleged Web Copyright Infringement by Messiah University Students or Employees.

Educating and Informing the Messiah University Community

Consistent with our educational principles, we view education as the most important element in combating illegal sharing of copyrighted materials at Messiah University. We use a wide variety of methods to inform our community about the law and Messiah’s response to copyright infringement claims:

  • In order to access the campus network or the Internet each year, all Messiah University students must review and agree to abide by the University’s acceptable usage policies at its Computer Registration page. This page includes disclosure of University policies relative to computer access, copyright infringement, and wireless communication, as well as material regarding illegal downloading, virus protection, and unauthorized access. It also contains links to additional information relevant to these topics.
  • Messiah’s policies and procedures concerning the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and our response to infringement claims are published on the University Website at Alleged Web Copyright Infringement by Messiah University Students or Employees.
  • Messiah will annually disclose to all students its institutional policies and sanctions related to copyright infringement, including all information described in Requirement C above. The required summary of the civil and criminal penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws will be as follows:

Copyright infringement is the act of exercising, without permission or legal authority, one or more of the exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner under Section 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code). These rights include the right to reproduce or distribute a copyrighted work. In the file-sharing context, downloading or uploading substantial parts of a copyrighted work without authority constitutes an infringement.

Penalties for copyright infringement include civil and criminal penalties. In general, anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or “statutory” damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For “willful” infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can, in its discretion, also assess costs and attorneys’ fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504 and 505.

Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense.

For more information, please see the website of the U.S. Copyright Office at, especially their FAQs at

  • Messiah University has a Copyright Working Group, which has among its functions: to develop programs and strategies for informing the campus on copyright; to assist in interpreting fair use; and to advise on copyright questions.
  • Messiah University’s Copyright Working Group maintains a Copyright website intended to pull together the University’s copyright policies and statements, and to serve as an educational tool to inform the campus about copyright. Among other things, the page contains links to the University’s Copyright Clearance Guidelines and relevant forms, copyright basics, information based on format or type of material, decision trees, links to copyright tutorials, and many frequently asked questions.
  • Copyright policy statements are included in all graduate school syllabi and in all undergraduate syllabi in QUEST (General Education) courses.
  • Messiah’s Website Content and Copyright Information page, as well as an Infringement notice, and Infringement policy, are accessible in the Student Consumer Information link at the bottom of every page of the University Web site.

Procedures for Handling Unauthorized Distribution of Copyrighted Material
Any Messiah University student or employee who is found to be responsible for illegal downloading or unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials using the University’s information technology system in violation of Alleged Copyright Infringement by Messiah University Students or Employees will be subject to applicable disciplinary procedures as published in the Student Handbook or the Policy and Procedure Manual for employees. He or she may also be subject to appropriate legal sanctions.

Offering Alternatives to Illegal File Sharing
The Messiah University’s Copyright website provides a page containing legal alternatives for downloading music, videos, and other digital content, including the link to the EDUCAUSE-maintained web page containing a list of such materials. Members of the Messiah community are encouraged to take advantage of these legitimate sources of digital content.

The Copyright Working Group and Information Technology Services will periodically examine how well the University community is informed about illegal file sharing and other copyright regulations; the extent to which community members are taking advantage of legal alternatives; the impact of our technical efforts to combat illegal file sharing; and other aspects of our plans to combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials. Procedures to accomplish the goals of these plans will be adjusted as required.

Messiah University utilizes the Copyright Clearance Center's (CCC) pay-per-use service to obtain copyright
clearance to:

  • Post and share content electronically in learning management systems (CANVAS), electronic coursepacks, on-line courses, and other e-learning environments;

  • Distribute content via e-mail or post it to your intranet, extranet or Internet sites;

  • Photocopy material from books, newspapers, journals and other publications for use in academic coursepacks and classroom handouts;

  • Republish an article, book excerpt or other content in your own books, journals, newsletters and other materials. 

Messiah's Copyright Working Group can help you acquire permissions from rightsholders and address fair use questions. Simply email