Note that the author of this guide is not an attorney and is providing information on copyright only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice. For legal advice, please see an attorney.
Most articles that are full-text in a database that has a lock next to it in our databases list or on the subject guides are copyrighted and licensed. It is best to share a link to such articles rather than a copy of the text. If, as a student, you are required to turn in the article or the first page of the article with your paper, you should be able to do that without any worries. As an instructor, linking really is better than copying.
Determining copyright on articles that are found by searching the general web is difficult. In general, you should assume that the article is copyrighted unless it was published before 1923 and you should treat the article accordingly. If it is found freely on the web, you are not responsible for whether it is a copyright violation or not and you can link to the article yourself as long as you don't copy it and store it somewhere else (like the D2L server or an SDSU server). Authors will often add copies of their published papers on their websites and you can certainly link to them there. More articles are becoming available for free a few months or a year after publication due to U.S. laws requiring that of papers coming out of certain grants. You cannot re-publish one of these articles, but you can print one out for your own use, link to it for your class, or share the link with the entire world.
It is generally better to share electronic articles via linking rather than copying. To link to an article in a database that SDSU subscribes to, be sure to have http://excelsior.sdstate.edu/login?url= as the first part of the URL. This makes the person clicking the link go through our proxy server and makes the article available to SDSU students, staff, and faculty from off-campus as well as on.
Material on websites is copyrighted. That goes for the text, pictures, clip art, and the design of the page itself. Just because it is on the web does not mean that you can use it indiscriminately. Remember that copyright covers copying of work so you can always quote or paraphrase information you found as long as you cite it. You can also link to a web page - this directs people to the original and does not make a copy so does not invoke copyright. You can also ask if you can use something you find. Most web pages have contact information on them (usually a link to the creator or manager of the website). If you ask and get no answer, don't assume the answer is yes; however.