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Copyright Information

These flowcharts will help you determine if certain lawfully acquired copyrighted works can be used in your PSU courses. Because the determination of Fair Use is not an exact science, please consider the use of these flowcharts as voluntary. They offer advice about safe minimums that make it highly probable that your use is Fair Use. If you have questions, please contact PSU Legal Counsel at 503-725-2655.

Note: In these Copyright Decision Flowcharts, reference is made to the First Sale, Fair Use and TEACH Act guidelines. Information about these guidelines appears in the Portland State Copyright Policy at

Government Document - A government document is a publication created by a local, state, or federal government agency. Government documents are most often in the public domain, although works funded by government grants may have copyright protection. Unlike federal government documents, works created by state or local government employees may be protected by copyright.

Open Access Document - An open access document is available immediately, has no copyright restriction, and is free of charge. Open access materials are usually digital, web-based media. Open access material is also distinctly scholarly, and is often derived from peer-reviewed journal articles. Open access documents are freely available through open educational resource repositories, which offer learning content, tools, and varied instructional resources.

Textbook - A textbook is an organized, physical manual for instruction covering a variety of topics a specific subject area. Typically, professors specify textbooks for their courses, and students purchase them for use.

Coursepack - A coursepack is a compendium of photocopied journal articles or textbook chapters, typically used in classrooms as handouts and are for purchase at copy centers or university bookstores for use in a course. Copyright clearance is requested and often granted by publishers, often for a fee, sometimes free.

Software - Software is written computer programming language used to execute tasks in a computing environment. Typically, application software is licensed for use to individuals or a site. Software can also be distributed as shareware or freeware, which doesn't mean it lacks copyright protection.

Website - A website is a structured collection of information stored on web servers, and is accessible on the Internet through a web browser. Websites can contain various media, levels of interactivity, and social networking features. Websites, of course, also contain single pages of information, such as news articles.

Video or Film - Video or film is media comprised of "moving" visual imagery. Video media can be delivered in various formats, both digital and analog, such as DVD, as a stream, or on videocassette. Film exists in a celluloid format, and compared to video, has much less potential for distribution, although it is significant.

Audio Recording - An audio recording is a representation of sound inscribed to a medium such as compact disc, audiocassette, record, or even as a podcast.

Photograph - A photograph is a still image created through use of a camera. Photographs are visible in a two-dimensional form and can be physical or digital. Photographs can be acquired through stock media collections, converted through scanning, or saved from a website.

Graphics or Other Visual Material - Graphics or other visual materials can consist of visual representations of drawings, photos, and diagrams, often combining text, color, and various shapes to illustrate, inform, instruct, or entertain.

Intranet or Internet Postings - An intranet posting is a text-based message posted by an individual to a restricted and secure web-based computing environment. An intranet is meant for employees or similar end users in a representative organization to communicate and share information.

Online Course Communications - Online course communications consist of all email, discussion, and archived messages between students, instructors, teaching assistants and guest participants in an online course management, or a web-conferencing system. Some messages, however, can originally be transmitted through standard email, or in an external social networking environment, such as blogs, wikis, or chat rooms. Compliance with University privacy policy should be demonstrated for student work.

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