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Copyright Q&A

  • Copyright QuestionsWhat is Copyright?
    Copyright is a set of exclusive rights reserved for the creator of an original work. In the United States, these rights are outlined in Title 17 of the United States Code (17 USC).U.S Copyright Law (17 USC, Sec. 106) protects the creators of the following types of original works: literary (including computer programming), musical, dramatic, pantomime, choreographic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and architectural works; sound recordings; and audiovisual works, including motion pictures. U.S. copyright law gives the work’s creator the exclusive rights to reproduce or authorize the reproduction of the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords, create or authorize the creation of derivative works based upon the copyrighted work; and distribute or authorize the distribution of copies or phonorecords to the public through sale, rental, lease, or lending. The creator also has exclusive rights topublicly display or perform his/her copyrighted work. This includes digital transmission of copyrighted works. The law ensures that the creators have the opportunity to profit from their work. Unauthorized use of copyrighted materials in a way that violates any of these exclusive rights is copyright infringement.Copyright protection does have limits. While the law identifies the rights that are exclusive to the work’s creator, much of the law is devoted to identifying limitations to, and defining the scope of, those exclusive rights. Copyright protection only applies to “fixed” works—created works that are fixed in a copy or phonorecord (any material object, including digital, in which sounds are fixed) for the first time (17 USC, Sec. 101 Definitions). Because copyright only applies to works that can be fixed in a visual or sound form, things such as ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operations, concepts, principles, or discoveries cannot be copyrighted. However, the work in which they are communicated, such as a book, diagram, or model, may be copyrighted (17 USC, Sec. 102 Subject matter of copyright: In general). Through this and the other limitations outlined in Sections 107-122, copyright law attempts to balance the needs of the work’s creator with the needs of society.Copyright protection does not apply to works in the public domain. A work is in the public domain if it was created prior to the existence of copyright law, such as the works of William Shakespeare; if the copyright has expired; or if the work doesn’t qualify for copyright protection, such as works authored by the U.S. government. Works in the public domain may be used freely without permission.
  • Can an Educator or Student Legally Use Copyrighted Work?
    There are several ways educators and students can legally use copyrighted work:

    1. Anyone can request and receive written permission. 
      To request permission, contact the copyright owner and request written permission to use the copyrighted work. Be specific with regard to the work and amount you want to use, the rights you are requesting, and your intended use of the copyrighted material. If the request is granted, a copy of all correspondence granting the permission must remain on file at the school as verification of the permission. More information about acquiring permission and sample permission requests can be found through the Columbia Copyright Advisory Office.
    2. Anyone may use copyrighted materials as authorized by the copyright owner through such extended non-profit organizations as Creative Commons. 
      Creative Commons
       is a nonprofit organization that supports the right of copyright owners to choose to reserve “some rights,” instead of “all rights,” which is typical for traditional copyright licensing. Through a Creative Commons license, copyright owners can define how they want others to use their work. They may choose to extend all rights identified in copyright law (the right to copy, display, perform, distribute, and create a derivative) with (1) Attribution, which requires users to attribute the work to its creator, or they may choose to somewhat limit the rights to use their work by also licensing the work as (2)NonCommercial, which requires that the work be used for non-commercial purposes, (3) Share Alike, which allows derivatives but requires that any distribution of a derivative work be distributed under the same share alike license, or as (4) No Derivatives, which does not allow any alteration, transformation, remix, or augmentation of the original work.
    3. Copyrighted work may be used without permission if the use constitutes “fair use” under the law. Because the law gives nonprofit educational organizations more leeway to use copyrighted materials, the use of copyrighted materials by educators and students has a greater chance of qualifying as fair use.
  • What is Fair Use?
    Section 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use is the first and most general section of U.S. Copyright Law to address copyright limitations. 17 USC 107 identifies four factors that are used by the courts to determine if the use of a copyrighted work qualifies as “fair use”:

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

    While Section 107 identifies the factors that must be considered to determine fair use, it does not specifically define any parameters. However, stakeholder groups representing various types of media have collaborated to develop parameters for the third factor regarding the amount of a copyrighted work that may be used without concern for copyright infringement if the use falls within fair use parameters for the other three factors. These parameters have been incorporated into these guidelines.

  • Who is Responsible for Educating Employees and Students about Fair Use?
    Under Policy DE505 Acceptable Use of Copyright Materials in Jordan School District, District department administrators and principals are responsible for educating employees, and educators are responsible for educating students, regarding the legal, ethical, and appropriate use of copyrighted materials. The Instructional Support Services Department is responsible for providing educational materials for administrators and teachers to use for this purpose.