This guide supports SUNY Oneonta faculty and students in understanding copyright, Fair Use, "No Cost/ Low Cost" alternatives and related rights issues. All members of the SUNY Oneonta community should be aware of and adhere to the provisions of the United States Copyright Law; we have an obligation to honor and abide by copyright rules when we use protected works in support of the academic mission. This guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.
What is copyright? A copyright grants to its owner the right to control an intellectual or artistic creation, including the right to profit from others using the work in specific ways without permission or from the sale and performance of the work. Copyright protection extends not only to copies of the written word and recordings of sound, but to visual images such as photographs, animated images, motion pictures, or videotapes. It also includes taped live performances.
U.S. Copyright Office: This site includes general copyright information as well as information about searching records, publications, and more information. The FAQ includes a helpful series of responses to the questions "Can I Use Someone Else's Work? Can Someone Else Use Mine?"
What does copyright protect?
Copyright is a bundle of exclusive rights. A copyright owner has the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do any of the following:
What kind of work 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.
Copyrightable works include the following categories:
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 cannot be copyrighted?
Certain types of works are not eligible for copyright protection. These include:
These works are in the public domain, meaning they are freely available for use without copyright restrictions.
What is fair use? Fair use is a legal principle that provides certain limitations on copyrighted materials. It is important to realize that there are no bright lines and assessment of whether or not an intended use is a fair use requires a thoughtful analysis of the context and intentions that underlie that use. As illustrative examples, under fair use, a teacher or researcher is allowed a rather limited amount of copying without the copyright owner’s permission for such purposes as: 1) criticism, 2) comment, 3) news reporting, or 4) teaching. These are not the only potential fair uses, but they do apply to many of the activities in which faculty engage.
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.
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.
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.
Creative Commons free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”
Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.
"Professors Publish Guide to Copyright Issues of Multimedia Projects" reports on the new study "Copying Right and Copying Wrong With Web 2.0 Tools in the Teacher Education and Communications Classrooms."
Urban Copyright Legends from Research Library Issues (June 2010).
Some content of this guide used by permission CC BY 4.0 URI Libraries.