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Copyright in the Classroom

Student Responsibilities

Like everyone else, students are responsible for respecting intellectual property laws and for considering whether or not their use of copyrighted material is covered by an exception like the Classroom Exemption or Fair Use. A few things to keep in mind:

  • The use of copyrighted materials in class presentations, performances, or projects that will only be distributed to your instructor or other students enrolled in your class is almost always considered legal under U.S. Copyright Law.

  • But today, many students are creating digital projects or other research that will be disseminated beyond the classroom setting. In such cases, you will need to carefully evaluate whether your use of the material would be considered fair use, even in cases where you will not profit financially from your project. Transforming or remixing copyrighted materials, adding commentary, and using short clips or small portions are factors that often weigh in favor of fair use.

  • While peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing and similar sites are not illegal in and of themselves, distributing or downloading copyrighted materials without permission often is illegal. Ball State must comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which requires action when the University is notified of infringing activities.

  • Ask us! At Ball State, you can always get in touch with the Copyright and Scholarly Communications Office for additional guidance on navigating copyright questions.

Student Rights

If students have responsibilities, they also have rights! Ball State students hold copyright to the papers, blog posts, creative projects, and other coursework they complete while enrolled here. And like everyone else in the U.S., they likely hold copyright to many other works they may create in day-to-day life.

Holding copyright comes with a guaranteed set of automatic rights. While others may use their work in the classroom and in limited ways under exceptions like Fair Use, students get to otherwise decide for themselves whether or how to reproduce, adapt, share, and publish their work.

For more information on Ball State policies, see the Intellectual Property & Technology Policy.

Plagiarism & Copyright

Plagiarism and copyright are distinct but related issues having to do with the illegal or unethical use of others' work. Whereas copyright infringement refers to the use of copyrighted materials without obtaining any necessary permissions, plagiarism refers to the use of sources without attribution or citation. Plagiarism can occur even if a work isn't protected by copyright or is made freely available; for instance, Wikipedia text is free and accessible online, but copying a chunk of text from Wikipedia for a paper would still be considered plagiarism. A chart from Ohio State University Libraries offers a useful starting point for considering plagiarism and copyright.