Persistent Links & Copyright

Copyright is an issue that many faculty deal with when selecting reading materials for classes. When an instructor finds a worthwhile reading in an online database they have many options as to how to make this work available for their students. Among these are making photocopies, putting a copy on reserve in the library, downloading a copy and posting it to their Blackboard course or linking to the article in the database through Blackboard. While each of these has copyright ramifications, it is often hard to tell which option will be not only convenient, but also within the Fair Use copyright guidelines. For more on Copyright and Fair Use guidelines including findings from the Samford University Ad Hoc Committee on Copyright Guidance, click here.

This page hopes to describe one such option and why it might be advantageous to both faculty and students. Persistent links refer to web addresses (e.g., that allow a user to go directly to the full-text article or book that they have located in a database or in the catalog. These links allow users to take advantage of this electronic copy of the work by connecting with the electronic face of their course -- Blackboard.

You may ask yourself, why should I use the persistent link when I can simply download a copy of article and load it into my Blackboard course with all my other course materials? The difference lies in the concept of making a copy. For example, imagine I have asked you to watch a video I have made. I can either invite you over to watch the video or I can make a copy of the video and let you have it to watch on your own. If I make a copy of the video and give it to you, you could conceivably make another copy and give it to someone else or, for that matter, make many copies and give them to many people, without my permission. "But I'm not that kind of person," you say and you are right, but imagine someone breaks into your office and takes the video and makes many, many unauthorized copies of my video (it's a really good video).

On the other hand, if you come over and watch the video then all the security concerns are mine and there is no way that you could be responsible for the distribution of unauthorized copies of the video, on purpose or by accident.

This is just like linking versus downloading. If you link to the article, it is like going to the database's house to view the article. If someone hacks into the database's server and steals the article, it is not your fault. By linking into the database you are taking the necessary security measures to ensure that only authorized users can access this copyrighted material.

Another advantage to linking to articles within databases is that it familiarizes students with these research databases and how they work. The more comfortable students are with electronic indexes and databases the more efficient and effective they will become at conducting this very basic research skill. Linking provides students the opportunity to see and use the database without having the added responsibility of evaluating and choosing the information from the database.

How do I get my hands on these persistent links? What does using a persistent link in Blackboard look like? Click here to a see how to find persistent links for full text articles in databases, e-journals and ebooks.

For more on Copyright and Fair Use guidelines including findings from the Samford University Ad Hoc Committee on Copyright Guidance, click here.