This site contains general information about copyright law to assist University of Tennessee faculty, staff, and students in understanding this complex area of the law. It does NOT provide legal advice. Legal advice can only be given and received in direct consultation with counsel, based upon all facts and circumstances involved in a specific instance. Faculty and staff who have questions about copyright related to their university activities should contact Frank Lancaster (865 974-3245) at the Office of the General Counsel.


Copyright is an ever-changing and ever-challenging area of the law. There are many areas in which the law is not clear. The widespread use of computer and communications technologies has added new dimensions to the production and use of copyrighted materials in educational institutions. With each new opportunity to learn in the electronic classroom comes the possibility of infringing some else’s copyright or having one’s own copyright infringed. As universities, faculty members, authors, traditional publishers, and electronic publishers develop new methods of communicating, their interests occasionally conflict. This area of the law is presently dynamic. Various groups are attempting to persuade Congress that copyright law should protect their interests. These groups do not agree on the nature and extent of this protection, however. Until they do, or until Congress takes action to change the current laws, this remains a murky area.

The purpose of this page is to help University of Tennessee faculty, staff, and students identify some of the basic concepts about copyright in general and in the educational setting in particular and to provide access to additional information. This page does not establish a new copyright policy for the University.

University of Tennessee Copyright Policies

Unofficial Guidelines

The following guidelines have not been officially adopted by the University of Tennessee. However, they are generally regarded as a “safe harbor” for using copyrighted material in the classroom without permission. In fact, several courts have approved of these guidelines, especially the Guidelines for Classroom Copying, and use them to analyze whether the use of copyrighted material without permission would be allowed.

Determining the Need for Permission to Use a Work

Obtaining Permission to Use a Work

Registering Your Work for Copyright

Sources of Information on Copyright

  • U.S. Copyright Office
    For copyright basics. A good introduction to what copyright is, who can claim its protection, what is not protected by copyright, how to comply with various formalities of registering copyrighted materials. Information is for the general user and is not specific to educational situations.
  • Cornell Law School
    Copyright materials, without editorial comment or interpretation. Includes copies of the Copyright Act, Regulations, court decisions, and interpretive sources.
  • University of Texas Office of General Counsel, Intellectual Property Section
    A comprehensive accumulation of material and ideas on copyright law, University of Texas policy, hot issues of the day, and theories espoused by various groups. If you are not familiar with the basics of copyright law, take the “Crash Course”.This site is a good source for those who understand the basics such as what copyright protects, what fair use is, and who owns copyright. Links to a wealth of intellectual property sites on the Web.
  • Stanford – Copyright Information
    Primary source materials, secondary and interpretive materials, links to other sites.
  • Columbia – Fair Use

Other Sources

Non-Electronic Sources

  • Goldstein, Paul. Copyright. 3rd edition, Little, Brown and Co.
  • Nimmer, Melville B. Nimmer on copyright by Melville B. Nimmer, David Nimmer. New York : M. Bender, 1978-
    The classic text and very useful for understanding the basic principles. Not as useful in the application of the principles to technology.