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Copyright & Fair Use : Copyright 101
 

The purpose of this guide is to provide faculty, staff, and students at UW-Parkside with an understanding of copyright law and fair use.

While copyright issues can be complex, understanding the basics helps avoid legal penalties for both you and the university.

Disclaimer:  This guide is not intended to replace the advice of legal counsel and should not be taken as legal advice.

Copyright Basics

What is copyright?

The goal of copyright law, as grounded in the U.S. Constitution, is to promote the progress of science and the useful arts.

Copyright is a form of protection granted to authors that provides them with certain exclusive rights for a limited period of time. These rights are intended to encourage authors to create, thereby providing society with valuable works.

The limitation on the length of copyright (as well as other limitations such as fair use) balances the benefits of incentives for authors with the benefits of allowing the public to make use of copyrighted materials in a free and democratic society.

What Can be Copyrighted?

What types of works can be copyrighted?

Copyright protection attaches automatically to original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Originality requires that the work was created independently (i.e. not copied from another) and that it embodies a minimum amount of creativity. To be fixed in a tangible medium of expression means that the work can be perceived either directly or by a machine or device such as a computer or projector.

These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, "literary works" includes novels, poetry, compilations, and computer programs. "Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works" includes images, photographs, paintings, maps, charts, and architectural plans.

What Can't be Copyrighted?

Certain types of works are not eligible for copyright protection. These include:

  • Ideas, theories, concepts
  • Procedures, methods, processes
  • Titles, names, short phrases and slogans, familiar symbols or designs, variations of type styles, lists of ingredients
  • Facts
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (e.g. standard calendars, height and weight charts, tables taken from public documents)
  • Works of the U.S. government

These works are in the public domain, meaning they are freely available for use without copyright restrictions.

Public Domain

A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be freely used by everyone.

Works fall into the public domain for three main reasons:

  • the term of copyright for the work has expired;
  • the author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright or
  • the work is a work of the U.S. Government.

See Copyright Term & the Public Domain created by Cornell librarians to determine whether a work falls into public domain.

Copyright Basics

Exclusive Rights

The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to do and authorize the following:

  • To reproduce in copies
  • To create derivative works based upon the original
  • To distribute copies to the public
  • To prohibit other persons from using the work without permission
  • To perform or display the work publicly.

Copyright protection covers both published and unpublished works as well as out-of-print materials.

UW-System General Counsel on Copyright                           

UW-Sytem General Counsel on Copyright FAQs                       

United States Copyright Office

In addition to the full text of the Copyright Law of the United States, a great deal of additional information on copyright can be found on the website of the United States Copyright Office.

Limitations on Copyright

In order to balance the needs of users with those of rightsholders and to preserve copyright's purpose to promote science and the useful arts, copyright law contains a number of exceptions.

For example:

  • Section 107: Fair use — Permits use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission. Examples of fair use include criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, and research.
  • Section 108: Library copying — Allows libraries to make copies of works for preservation, research and study, and interlibrary loan.
  • Section 109(a): First sale doctrine — Limitation on the copyright holder's distribution right that states that once a copy of a work has been lawfully sold, the owner of the copy is free to resell it, rent it, loan it, or give it away. Allows for library lending, video rentals, used book and CD sales, and the ability to give copyrighted materials as gifts.
  • Section 109(c): Exception for public displays — Allows the owner of a lawfully made copy of a work to display it to the public at the place where the work is located. Allows for display of art in museums and bookstore and library displays, for example.
  • Section 110(1): Displays and performances in face-to-face teaching — Allows for the performance and display of copyrighted materials in the course of face-to-face teaching at nonprofit educational institutions.
  • Section 110(2): Displays and performances in distance education (TEACH Act) — Ability to display or perform certain types of copyrighted works in the course of distance education. Use of 110(2) is subect to many conditions, including establishing institutional policies and implementing technological controls.
  • Section 117: Computer Software — Owners of computer software can make backup copies and modify the software so that it works on a specific computer platform.
  • Section 120: Architectural Works — Anyone may take and use photographs of publicly visible buildings without infringing the copyright of the architectural design.
  • Section 121: Special formats for the blind or other people with disabilities — Organizations that serve the disabled can reproduce or distribute copies of previously published, nondramatic literary works in specialized formats for use by the blind or other persons with disabilities.

Many of the exceptions in copyright law apply only to certain types of works under very specific conditions. The exceptions can be difficult to understand and apply without the advice of a lawyer.

In contrast, fair use is easier to understand, applies to all types of works, and is flexible. It is for these reasons that this guide recommends relying on fair use when deciding when and how to use (or not to use) third-party copyrighted material in online education.

Copyright on Campus

View a 6 minute clip from the Copyright Clearing Center

 

 

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