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Intellectual Property includes four areas: copyright, patent, trade mark, and trade secret. This document highlights the first area, copyright. More specifically, this resource focuses on the academic environment, particularly for librarians, educators, and students. This document provides basic information on the concepts of copyright law, avoiding infringement, seeking legal clearance, and applying the appropriate laws for a variety of media.

  • Copyright is a privilege and a protection, which the federal government affords authors and artists, as an incentive to produce creative works and expressions. Libraries and nonprofit educational institutions are granted certain exemptions to copyright laws.
  • American copyright laws are inherited from English copyright laws.
  • The American Bar Association web site provides detailed information for both the creators and the information borrowers. Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, which offers extensive commentaries on copyright and other intellectual property issues. A wiki is a new and innovative technology, which displays pertinent and new intellectual property changes. Also, the wiki may be updated from the browser window; therefore, changes and news items are available for fast publication on the Web.
  • The principle of fair use does not have a set definition, but there are established guidelines to direct users or borrowers on what and how much of a copyrighted work may be borrowed. In general, the statute does “state the minimum and the not the maximum standards…” (Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 102(2001)).
  • Colleges, major universities, and educational organizations offer intellectual property information on the Internet. The websites contain well-documented and comprehensive documents for their respective learning communities on fair use guidelines. Listed below are copyright and fair use guidelines from several university websites.

A work in the public domain is not protected by copyright and may be freely used by everyone. The reasons why a work might be in the public domain are varied but include 1) the term of copyright for that work has expired, 2) the creator has chosen to make the work available without copyright restriction, 3) formal requirements were not met.

Copyrights are limited in their duratio, but copyrights may be extended. The Cornell University web site features a copyright duration chart, which outlines when works fall in to the public domain.

The term “orphan work” describes any work where the legal copyright holder cannot be located.

With the growing number of online classes, it became apparent that educators who taught online were accorded separate and less favorable fair use guidelines than face-to-face educators. The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002 was enacted to ease the copyright standards for online classes. Florida State University supplies an explanation and guidelines in a PDF document called The TEACH Act of 2002: How the Law Affects Online Instruction.

Obtaining copyright clearance can be confusing and time consuming. The University of Texas has compiled Getting Permission, which lists websites that specialize in securing permissions for national and foreign works, as well as image archives, freelance authors, music performances, play right, new archives, movies, and more. Also, The Copyright Clearance Center is a commercial web site, which offers services to academic institutions to ensure their compliance in copyright matters.

Students are reminded that plagiarism is a serious infringement. Plagiarism, according to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is ” the act of passing of ideas and words of another as one’s own, without crediting the source.” When a student uses the words or ideas of another in a paper or presentation, the student is required to cite the original work. Also, the student is required to acknowledge all who have contributed significantly to the paper or course assignment.

Keywords to Use When Searching Indexes
  • Copyright
  • Intellectual Property
  • Fair Use
  • Public Domain
  • Teach Act
  • Copyright Clearance
  • Plagiarism
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