Reading: Copyright

Reading: Copyright

Lesson Introduction

The birth of the Internet and other technologies that allow for easily sharing information have opened up challenges to our copyright laws. In recent years landmark cases have filled our court systems and left many experts searching for new answers. The purpose of this Lesson is to help you understand copyright law, fair use of copyrighted works, and how to avoid violation of copyright. After reading this Lesson, you should be able to:

  • Describe protections afforded to an author under copyright laws.
  • Explain how to obtain permission to use a copyrighted work.
  • Explain conditions of Fair Use under the copyright law.
  • Describe how one can avoid plagiarism.
  • Explain the penalties of plagiarism.
  • Understand emerging trends in open copyright and discuss the “Free Culture” prespective.

Protections Under the Law

Copyright is the protection provided by U.S. law (Title 17, U.S. Code) of “original works of authorship” both published and unpublished. In their brochure, Copyright Basics, the U.S. Copyright Office (2001) outlines eight categories of copyrightable works:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works, including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

There are several categories of materials that the U.S. Copyright Office (2001) does not list as eligible for copyright.

  • Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form
  • Titles, names, short phrases, slogans
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship

Up until 1989 in order to have one’s work protected by copyright, it was required that a Notice of Copyright be provided. According to U.S. Copyright Law, the Notice of Copyright was required to contain three elements: (1) The copyright symbol (©) or the word copyright; (2) the year of the first publication; and (3) the name of the owner of the publication. The birth of new technologies has led to some significant changes in the copyright laws. One such change, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed into law in 1998. The DMCA makes it illegal to circumvent anti-piracy measures built into commercial software. Additionally, the law seeks to prevent the manufacture, sale, or distribution of code-cracking devices used to copy software. Provisions in the law do permit cracking of copyright protection devices for the purposes of encryption research, assessment of product interoperability, and to test computer systems.

Obtaining Copyright

Once a work is created and fixed in a copy or “phonorecord” (U.S. Copyright Office, 2001, p. 3), copyright is secured. It is not necessary to register a work or publish the work to have copyright privileges. If you use or reproduce a copyrighted work without expressed permission, you are infringing on said copyright. However, Section 107 of Title 17 of U.S. Code provides the use of copyrighted works is free of infringement if being used for any of the following purposes:

  • Criticism
  • Comment
  • News reporting
  • Teaching
  • Scholarship
  • Research

In order to gain permission to use a copyrighted work, simply contact the copyright holder, explain your need for their work, and ask permission. You should be sure to gain a written or recorded copy of their permission for your records.

Fair Use

According to Section 107 of Title 17 of U.S. Code, four factors must be considered in determining whether or not use of a copyrighted work constitutes fair use:

  • What is the purpose and character of the use of the copyrighted work?
  • Is the use of the work commercial in nature or for nonprofit academic use?
  • What is the nature of the copyrighted work?
  • What is the amount of the work and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole?
  • What effect will the use of the copyrighted work have on the potential market for or value of the work?

Avoiding Plagiarism

The use of someone else’s ideas, words, etc. without clearly acknowledging the source of information is considered plagiarism. In order to avoid plagiarism, give credit where credit is due! In other words, if you use someone’s ideas, words, opinions, statistics, graphics, etc. through a quotation or paraphrase, provide a citation for the work. When paraphrasing, be sure to put ideas in your own words. If you use words taken directly for a source, put the passage in quotation marks and provide a page number from the source where you pulled the quote.

Penalties

In an academic setting acts of plagiarism may result in a failing grade or expulsion from the institution. Additionally, such acts may result in legal action in the form of a lawsuit. Here are some additional resources to review: PSU Copyright Bytes: Information about how copyright can affect you. Berkley Digital Library Sunsite: Links and information on Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights. Copyright Clearance Center: How to obtain copyright permissions.

Open Copyright: The Commons

Probably the most interesting development in the copyright space has been the birth of the Creative Commons approach to copyright. This new thinking is allowing people to share and share alike to move their art forward. To me, it is the way of the future — at least I hope. Some people really don’t like it (Bill Gates) and some think it is THE way to go (Lessig). I will let you decide however. I’d like you to take a half hour of you life to listen to Lawrence Lessig’s talk, Free Culture … I’ll be asking you to respond to that, so please take a look.

Lesson Wrap-Up

Now that you have completed this Lesson you should have a better understanding of copyright law and your responsibilities to use information in accordance with that law. In this lesson you should have learned to:

  • Describe protections afforded to an author under copyright laws.
  • Explain how to obtain permission to use a copyrighted work.
  • Explain conditions of Fair Use under the copyright law.
  • Describe how one can avoid plagiarism.
  • Explain the penalties of plagiarism.
  • Understand emerging trends in open copyright and discuss the “Free Culture” prespective.

One thought on “Reading: Copyright

  1. When I designed our research group’s website with explicit links to PDF of journal publications, we used this:

    Any use of material that is determined to be fair use under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the permission of publishers. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form on servers, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from associated publishers.

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