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Copyright Toolkit

Copyright Law Resources

Copyright Law and Definition

Copyright is a form of protection provided by Title 17 of the  U.S. Code and other Congressional Copyright Acts and Amendments to authors of intellectual property. The owner of copyright-protected material has the exclusive right to do and authorize the following:

•To reproduce the work
•To prepare derivative works based upon the work
•To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
•To prohibit other persons from using the work without permission
•To perform the work publicly

Section 106 of the copyright law lists the exclusive rights of copyright owners. The remaining sections of Chapter 1 describe a number of exceptions and limitations on those rights. Exceptions most common in educational settings are Section 107: Fair Use; Section 108: Reproduction by Libraries and Archives; Section 109: Transfer (Right of First Sale).

As responsibility for copyright compliance rests with the user, these guidelines provide information and educational tools to assist you in making informed decisions regarding appropriate use of copyrighted materials. The Associate Dean of Library is the copyright officer for Rasmussen University and is available via e-mail ( should you have questions regarding copyright compliance. Copyright assistance is also available from programmatic Librarians.


For additional information about copyright, view the information and resources provided on the Copyright Clearing House website (click on the Learn tab).

To view the Federal Statutes relating to Copyright as well as copyright cases, consult Title 17 of the U.S. Code in Fastcase.

Rasmussen University Policy Statement on Copying Copyright Protected Materials

It is the intent of Rasmussen University that all members of the College community adhere to the provisions of the United States Copyright Laws, Title 17, United States Code and other Congressional Copyright Acts and Amendments.
Copying of any sort (photocopying, electronic copying, scanning, printing, videotaping, and/or plagiarism) which are not allowed by the United States Copyright Laws and related Copyright Acts and Amendments may not occur on the college premises and will not be utilized by the Rasmussen Community. Any person who willfully infringes copyright law or who requests another person to do so will be held liable for his/her actions.
Copyright notices will be posted in the vicinity of all photocopying equipment. Posting of additional notices may occur at the discretion of the Campus Director.

What is protected by Copyright?

Published and unpublished work, out-of-print materials, and is automatically assigned the moment a work is “created and fixed in a tangible form”.
Copyright law protects original:
•Literary works
•Musical works, including lyrics
•Dramatic works, including accompanying music
•Pantomimes and choreographic works
•Pictoral, sculptural, and graphic works
•Motion pictures and audiovisual works
•Sound recordings
•Architectural works
However, some of these can be protected by patent or trade secret laws. See for information regarding intellectual property, patents and trademarks, and an online tool that allows users to search for active trademarks.
What is not protected by Copyright?

The following are NOT protected by current copyright law:

  • Facts
  • Ideas
  • Procedures
  • Processes
  • Systems
  • Concepts
  • Principles
  • Discoveries

Resources in the public domain -- which may include many government resources -- are not copyright protected.  See the Copyright Protection and Public Domain tab on this page for more information.

Copyright Protection and Public Domain 

Copyright protection currently lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.  If there is more than one author copyright protection lasts for the life of the last author's death plus 70 years.  Copyright protection for materials created by a business may last for 95 years from publication.   
The concept of Public Domain is a provision that facilitates use without permission in certain circumstances.  In short, public domain means intellectual property rights do not apply, have expired, or were forfeited.

In general, Government sources of information are in the “public domain” and can be used without obtaining permission, with a few exceptions.  Examples are the Bureau of Labor Statistics Data, Federal Trade Commission Reports, and US Geological Survey data.  In addition to the digital slider below, be sure to review the “terms of use”, “terms of service” or “copyright” section of a source’s website before using their material. 

 Click on the Digital Slider to determine if copyrighted materials are now in public domain.

TEACH Act     
Please note that because Rasmussen University is a for-profit academic institution, the “Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization” (TEACH) Act does not apply to Rasmussen University and the work we do in the classroom (whether residentially or virtually). The TEACH Act clearly states that it is only applicable to a "governmental body or an accredited nonprofit educational institution."    
For more about the TEACH Act, please visit:

Distance Education and the TEACH Act

Copyright Clearance Center, The TEACH Act

Exceptions for instructors typically relate to the TEACH Act; because Rasmussen University is a for-profit academic institution the TEACH Act does not apply to our instructor's use of materials in the classroom.  Click on the Exceptions Tool below to determine whether use of material may qualify as an exception:
Note: When using this exceptions tool, your result will almost always be “No, your use is not covered by this exemption”; however, note that Fair Use (Section 107) may still be applicable.