Original works of authorship – including literary works, musical works and accompanying words, dramatic works, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, motion picture and other audiovisual works, and sound recordings – are protected by copyright. However, ideas, procedures, process, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles or discoveries contained within an original work are not covered by copyright. A copyright gives the owner of the copyright the excusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform and display copyrighted works.
In general, no one may use copyrighted material without authorization from the copyright owner for the life of the copyright. Generally, if the work was created on or after January 1, 1978, copyrighted works are protected by copyright laws for the length of the author’s life plus seventy years. Copyrights for works completed before January 1, 1978 extend for 28 years from the date the copyright was secured and are automatically renewable for an additional 67 years. Thus, currently, works created prior to 1923 are likely to be in the public domain, and permission need not be sought. In addition, works created directly by the federal government or by one of its employees are in the public domain and can be copied freely.
The “fair use” exception allows someone other than the copyright owner to make reasonable use of copyrighted materials without permission. The “fair use” of a copyrighted work for comment, criticism, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research is not an infringement on a copyright. The factors to be considered in determining whether use of a copyrighted work is “fair use” are:
(17 United States Code § 107)
Although teaching, scholarship and research purposes may justify a fair use defense to a claimed infringement of copyright if certain criteria are met, planned and repeated uses of copyrighted material without the permission of the owner are not justifiable. Claiming “educational use” alone is not sufficient to make the use of photocopies “fair use.”
The policies in this guide provide more specific guidelines for determining when the photocopying of printed materials, and the copying of computer software and audio-visual material constitute “fair use.”