Copyrights & Copy-Wrongs
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Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution states, "The
Congress shall have power... to promote the progress of science and useful
arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive
right to their respective writings and discovers."
The purpose of this protection is to balance between
protection of intellectual property and the rights of those seeking to
access information. Copyrights can apply to all concrete forms
(written, recorded, digital) of expression. This protection applies
whether the work is registered or not. By law, all works created
since January 1, 1978 are copyrighted unless otherwise noted.
Copyrights protect how ideas are presented, not the actual
idea. Disney, for example, owns copyrights on all Mickey Mouse
cartoons and other uses. They do not own rights on all talking, cute
mice. Facts cannot be copyrighted, but the way they are presented or
explained can be.
What can be copyrighted?
- Literary works
- Musical works
- Dramatic works
- Pantomimes and choreographic works
- Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
- Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
- Sound recordings
- Architectural work
- Work not in fixed, tangible form of expression
- Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or
designs; simple listings of ingredients or contents
- Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts,
principles, discoveries, or devices
- Works consisting entirely of information that is common
property and containing no original authorship
The word "copyright" means the right to copy. By
law, the owner of a copyright has 6 rights:
This refers to making copies. When a file is downloaded from the
Web, it is being copied. Printing also is a form a copy.
Modifications, alterations, or use of another’s ideas is also
protected. Changing format, posting from a book to a Web, and
copying someone else’s HTML all fall under adaptation.
of copyright control how their work is distributed to the public.
Electronic transmissions or simply posting work on the Web is
right to perform a work in public is covered by copyrights.
Digital broadcasts, other transmissions, and live renditions are
Owners of copyrights also control how their work is shown to the
public. Anything transmitted digitally is considered a public
Transmissions of Sound Recordings. Copyright owners have the
right to control how their audio recordings are distributed.
Sending or downloading an audio file over the Internet is a digital
By law, people need
permission from the copyright holder to reproduce, adapt, distribute,
publicly perform, publicly display, or digitally transmit audio sound
recordings unless the intended use falls under a special category called
Owners of copyrights may
sell or license any of these 6 rights permanently or by terms that are
agreed upon. Rights are often sold to publishers. A copyright
owner may allow their work to fall into the public domain, which means
that no restrictions apply.
Copyrights now last for
the life of the author plus 70 years. The Digital Millennium
Copyright Act (1998) adds prohibitions on circumvention of protection
technology. It also limits the liability of online service
providers, and addresses digital preservation and
By law, material does not have to
contain a copyright notice or be. From a practical point of view, it
does help in building a case that a person has willingly disregarded an
owner's copyrights. A copyright notice has three parts:
Copyright, Copr., or ©
The year first published
Name of copyright holder
An example of a complete copyright
notice might be: 2003 ©BreitLinks, Inc.
Work does not need this notice, however,
to be protected.
By law, others are allowed some use of copyrighted material if they can show that is not commercial, does not infringe on the main copyrighted idea, and will not affect the potential market for the original copyrighted
work. The purpose is to allow a work to be used for criticism,
comment, news reporting, teaching, or research.
Be careful, in order to claim “fair use,” you have to admit that you have infringed or used someone else’s copyrighted material. A court will decide if the use is fair. If a copyright dispute ends up in court, a judge will look at 4 factors to determine fair use.
Purpose or Character of
Use. Is the work for commercial or non-commercial use?
Commercial use is not likely fair use.
Nature of Original
Work. Facts cannot be copyrighted, only the way that they are
presented. Use of creative fiction is less likely to be considered
Substantiality of Use.Are the main parts or substance of the original
use being used or is only a minor part of the work in question being used?
Affect on Potential
Market or Value of Work.Is there a likelihood of harm from the
intended use? Copyright owners do not have to prove actual damages,
only potential damages.
Fair Use Guidelines
Applying the tests identified for "fair
use" can bring up complex issues. In general, the
following guidelines provide a workable framework of analysis to help
understand if a given use if within the rights of "fair use."
Here are some basic guidelines for teacher copies, classroom
copies, libraries, print guidelines,
video tapes and AV materials, off-air taping,
music, software, the
Internet, and Multimedia.
Teacher Copies. Single copies
for teacher research, preparation for teaching, or teaching is "fair
use" when it concerns a:
- >Single chapter in a book.
- Single copy of an article.
- Single copy of a short story, poem, or essay.
- Single copy of a picture, cartoon, drawing, diagram,
graph, or char.
Classroom Copies. Copies for
classroom use should be spontaneous and at the inspiration of an
individual teacher. This spontaneity precludes taking the time to
request permission. The material used should be brief. The
cumulative effect of the copies should:
- Only for 1 course and not repeated from term to term.
- Not include more than 1 by any author, three from any
collective work/periodical volume.
- Not exceed 9 instances during a course.
- Classroom copies are not to be used to create
compilations of the works of others without each copyright holder's
Libraries. Copies are
permitted for interlibrary loan, preservation, replacement of lost or
damaged items. Articles places on reserve are not covered by
copyrights, but there are ALA
Print Guidelines. The
following apply to what portion of a work can be copied in multiples:
Videotapes and AV Materials.
Rented/purchased materials must specifically include "public performance"
rights to avoid copyright issues. Typically, material sold at retail
outlets are only for "home use." To be considered
"fair use," ALL FOUR of
the following for apply:
- Poetry. Complete poem under 250 words,
except not more than 250 words o longer poem.
- Prose. Complete work if under 2,500
words, excerpt of 1,000 words or 10% (whichever is less)
- Periodicals. No more than 3 items per
volume or 9 items copied in multiples per course per tem (except news
- Illustration. One per book or periodical
(no right to modify).
Off-Air Taping. These
considerations apply strictly to broadcasts and do not apply to cable or
other means of transmission (which do not have the same fair use
rights). To be considered "fair use,"
the following apply:
- Material must be presented by instructors or pupils in
a particular class AND
- Occur in a face-to-face teaching directly related to
the lesson being covered at the time AND
- Take place in a classroom, or other instructional
setting in a nonprofit educational institution AND
- Consist of a copy of the work that was legally
Music. Emergency replacement
of purchased copies are allowed provided purchased replacement copies are substituted.
For Academic purpose (NOT performance), the following are permissible:
- Taping must be requested from a specific instructor.
- Not more than once.
- Only for instructional purposes.
- Cannot be modified or edited.
- Multiple copies of excerpts of work, up to 10% of the
- A single copy of an entire performable unit that is
out of print or unavailable sole for he purpose of scholarly research
or preparation to teach.
- A single copy of recordings of performances by
students for evaluation or rehearsal purposes.
- Single copy of an legally owned sound recording for constructing
aural exercises or examinations.
- Printed copies that have been purchased may be edited
or simplified, provided (1). the fundamental character of the
work is not distorted, (2). Lyrics are not altered, (3).
No lyrics are added.
Permission to use music can be sought through ASCAP or BMI
Software. When software is
purchased, users are buying license to use that copyrighted
material. Purchasers are allowed one archival copy. Users are
responsible for reading and understanding license agreements.
Different licenses have different rights. Common types of licenses
- Single users license
- Site license
- Lab pack
The Internet. Courts have yet
to make significant decisions on these issues. Users are advised to
observe the following guidelines:
- Email messages are owned by the author. Because
they are not published, "fair use"
probably does not apply. Permission should be obtained to
- Newsgroups and discussion lists can probably be posted
in part or for non-profit use.
- Web pages use should follow the 4 "fair
- Source/software coding should be considered as
for work that includes parts of copyrighted materials in different
format involves more complex issues because different formats have
different copyrights. Modifying media is not "fair-use."
In general, fair-use guidelines limits the types and amounts of
material that may be used and how the resulting multimedia may be used
and retained. For more information, see Fair
Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia on my
US Copyright Office
Big Myths About Copyrights
Redistribution of Graphics Has to Stop
Are Patents, Trademarks, Servicemarks, and Copyrights?
Copyright & Fair Use Center
Use of Copyrighted Materials
Use of Copyrighted Works: A Crucial Element in Educating America
and Fair Use in the Classroom, on the Internet, and the World Wide Web
Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia.
Copyright Office Resources