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Copyright Information and Guidelines: Copyright Basics

This guide for the Bentley University community presents information on copyright and provides guidance in evaluating the use of copyrighted material in higher education and scholarship.

What is Copyright?

Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the US Constitution grants the federal government the power "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” This principle forms the fundamental basis on which U.S. copyright law resides.
 

Copyright is a form of legal protection for authors of original works. Authors automatically own copyright to all their creative works whether or not they were officially published, and need not be displayed with the familiar encircled "c" symbol. Faculty are automatically protected by copyright law for all their handouts, worksheets, exams, and working papers. On the other hand commercial publishers may or may not allow the author to keep the copyright to an article they publish, depending on the terms set by the publisher. Therefore it is not unusual for authors to have to request copyright permission from the publisher to reproduce their own articles under circumstances beyond fair use.

 

Registration and the use of the copyright notice on copies are no longer required, although they are good practice. Registration and the copyright notice can provide some additional legal benefits in the unlikely event of a lawsuit to protect your work. For more information about registration, access the U.S. Copyright Office home page at http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/.

 

The Copyright Act of 1976, section 106, gives the copyright holder the exclusive right to do, and to authorize others to do, the following:

 

Reproduce copies of the work

• Prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work

• Distribute in paper or electronically copies of the work by sale, lease, rental, or lending

• Publicly perform the work

• Publicly display the work, electronically or otherwise

 

These rights are not absolute, however, and are subject to both the fair use limitations which apply to all media, and to medium-specific limitations.

 

Copyright is normally owned by the. author of a work for the duration of the author's lifetime, plus 70 years (Digital Millennium Copyright Act [DMCA] and the Sonny Bono Extension Act [CTEA] of 2000). An exception is made in cases of publications for hire where the author specifically gives the copyright to the employer/publisher. In these cases the copyright is given for 75 years from the year of first publication or 100 years from the date of creation, whichever comes first.

 

Publications more than 75 years old, can generally be considered copyright-free, as can most government documents and works published before January 1978 for which no copyright notice is indicated. Once an item is in the public domain it is no longer eligible for copyright protection. All other works must be considered protected by copyright.

 

Source: Bentley University Copyright Policy

 

Resources on Copyright

Websites
 
The text of U.S. copyright law (Title 17), completely up to date.
 
Official website features publications including informational circulars, application, links to the copyright law and to the homepages of other copyright-related organizations, online copyright records cataloged since 1978, Congressional testimony, press releases, and the latest regulations.
 
A brief summation of U.S. Copyright law from Cornell University Law School.
  
The office's official website offers a wealth of information on copyright, from the basics to how it is applied to scholarly publication and instruction. Provides links to resources and an examination of recent litigation highlighting the complexities of copyright law.
 
Provides an in-depth overview of copyright law and how it relates to academic institutions, as well as charts and tools, case law, and numerous links to other resources.
 
A streamlined website designed to provide instructors with concise information and guidance in the use of copyrighted material in their teaching. 
 

Blogs

Duke's source for advice and information about copyright and publication issues with Duke University's Scholarly Communications Officer, Kevin Smith.
 
Nancy Sims, the Copyright Program Librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries. News and discussion focusing on copyright law, scholarship, communication and higher education issues.
 
Official blog of Stanford University Libraries' Office of Copyright and Fair Use.

Disclaimer

Please note that the above information is for reference purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. It is advisable to always conduct a Fair Use Analysis whenever there is a question regarding the lawful use of copyrighted material. If, after careful evaluation, it is determined that the use of particular material would violate copyright law, or if you need to purchase copyright permissions for such use, please contact Matthew Van Sleet at 781.891.2311 or mvansleet@bentley.edu.

More on Copyright

 

Bentley University Copyright Guidelines and Policies

Compiled by the Bentley University Copyright Guidelines and Policies Committee, 2001.

Tools and Resources