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Copyright Information: Copyright FAQs

Copyright Legislation

United States copyright law is contained in Title 17 of the U. S. Code. Copyright in the United States is administered by the U.S. Copyright Office, which is a part of the Library of Congress.

The last general revision to copyright law was the Copyright Act of 1976. Since then, Congress has passed legislation changing the provisions of the copyright law, including:

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is copyright?

    What can be copyrighted?

    What cannot be protected by copyright?

    What about works in the public domain?

    How does a work become copyrighted?

    What is fair use?

    What is the Face-to-Face Teaching Exception?

    How do I get permission to use a copyrighted work?

    Can I show a program I recorded on my television?

    Can I use the same article in both of my classes or every time I teach the class?

    Can I charge students for the copies I give them?

    Can I copy the lab manual to give to students?

    Can I put all my articles into a course pack?

    Can I make a copy of something for my research and course preparation?

    Can I copy printed sheet music?

    The item I want to copy is out of print.  Can I copy it?

     

    What is copyright?

    Copyright law gives the owner of the copyright exclusive rights to the duplication, distribution, derivation, display, and public performance of a copyrighted work. Congress first enacted copyright legislation in 1790, and the copyright law is detailed in Title 17 of the U. S. Code.

    What can be copyrighted?

    All works created in any tangible medium of expression can be copyrighted. Copyrighted works fall into one of these 8 categories:

    1. Literary works
    2. Musical works
    3. Dramatic works
    4. Pantomimes and choreographic works
    5. Pictorial, graphics, and sculptural works
    6. Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
    7. Sound recordings
    8. Architectural works

    What cannot be protected by copyright?

    Ideas, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, or discoveries are not protected.

    What about works in the public domain?

    Certain categories of work fall are considered to be in the public domain, and thus can be copied without permission. Is a work in the public domain? Check the FRIDGE!

    How does a work become copyrighted?

    A work is copyrighted the moment it becomes tangible. It is no longer necessary to register a copyrighted work with the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress, although copyright owners should still do so for their own protection.

    What is fair use?

    The Fair Use Exemption allows for the use of copyrighted works without permission under certain, limited circumstances. Section 107 of the copyright law lists four factors to be considered in determining fair use:

    • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
    • The nature of the copyrighted work
    • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
    • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

    What is the Face-to-Face Teaching Exception?

    Section 110 of Title 17 allows for the use of legally reproduced works to be used in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction in the course of face-to-face teaching at a nonprofit educational institution. This section also expands exemptions to educators for digital transmission of public displays and performances. The exemption applies as long as there is no direct or indirect admission, it is a regular part of the instructional activities, and it is directly related to the teaching content. The TEACH Act extends this exemption to include distance education. Digital transmission must be at the direction of the instructor and it must be an integral part of the class session. The transmission must be limited to student officially enrolled in the course.

    How do I get permission to use a copyrighted work?

    Permission to use a copyrighted work must be obtained from the actual copyright holder. Communicate with the owner the exact type or right you need, the purpose for which the material will be copied, and the time limits on your use.

    Can I show a program I recorded on my television?

    The 1981 Guidelines for Off-Air Recording of Broadcast Programming for Educational Purposes outline the circumstances under which such recordings can be used. The record program must:

    • Be recorded off-air simultaneously with broadcast (NOT cable) transmission
    • Be retained by a nonprofit educational institution for no more than 45 days after the date of recording
    • Be erased or destroyed immediately after the retention period
    • Be used only once in the course of relevant teaching activities
    • Be repeated only once when reinforcement is necessary
    • Be used in classrooms and similar places of instruction
    • Be used during the first 10 consecutive days of the 45day retention period
    • Be made only at the request of and used by individual teachers
    • Not be regularly recorded in anticipation of requests
    • Not be altered from their original content
    • Not be physically or electronically combined or merged to constitute teaching anthologies or compilations
    • Include the copyright notice on the broadcast program as recorded.

    Can I use the same article in both of my classes or every time I teach the class?

    Repetitive use in the classroom, in Blackboard, or for library reserves normally requires permission from the owner of the copyright.

    Can I charge students for the copies I give them?

    Students should not be charged more than the actual cost of making the copies.  Students should also be advised that they may not make additional copies of the material without permission or clearance.

    Can I copy the lab manual to give to students?

    Lab manuals, standardized tests, and workbooks fall into the category of consumable works. Normally, copying from these requires permission of the copyright owner.

    Can I put all my articles into a course pack?

    Creating a collected work or anthology generally requires permission of all the copyright holders included in the book.

    Can I make a copy of something for my research and course preparation?

    A single copy may be made of the following for individual use in research , teaching, or to perform the functions of the job:

    • A chapter from a book
    • An article from a journal or newspaper
    • A short story, short essay or short poem, whether or not from a collective work
    • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, journal or newspaper

    Can I copy printed sheet music?

    Normally, copying sheet music requires permission. Copies can be made for performance in the case of emergencies. These copies should be replaced by purchased copies as soon as possible.

    The item I want to copy is out of print. Can I copy it?

    Copyright protection remains in force even when a work is out of print. Copyright clearance is still necessary, unless the copying falls under the Fair Use provisions.