Quick Guide to Copyrights &
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What is © copyright?
Copyright is the legal right of creators of 'original works of authorship' to publish, produce, sell, or distribute exclusively a work, whether it be academic, literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, or certain other creative work, both published and unpublished. Copyright law provides the following exclusive rights for copyright owners:
- To reproduce all or part of the copyrighted work
- To prepare derivative versions based on the original copyrighted work
- To distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public
- To perform or display the copyrighted work publicly
What are permissions?
Permission is authorization to make a copy (printed or electronic) of material that is protected by copyright. Examples of copying for which permission is required include photocopying or re-publishing works, copying or re-recording songs, posting material to a web page, and transmitting or broadcasting via cable or satellite.
What is Fair Use?
The doctrine of Fair Use permits, in limited situations, the use of portions of a copyrighted work without the copyright owner's permission for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. The four factors that are taken into consideration when making such a determination are:
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is commercial or is for nonprofit
- The nature of the copyrighted work.
- The amount and substance of the portion used about the copyrighted work as a whole.
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
No one factor can determine a person's right to use a copyrighted work without acquiring permission. Additionally, there is no set number of words or lines that may be taken without permission. Simply citing the source of the copyrighted material cannot take the place of obtaining permission.
How long does copyright protection last?
The length of copyright protection for a given work may depend on several factors, including the date the work was created, the publication history of the work, the life span of the author, and whether the work was created as a "work made for hire." Generally speaking, all works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain. Works published after 1922, but before 1978 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. If the work was created, but not published, before 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. For more information on copyright duration and a summary of the 1998 Sony Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extends the term of copyright for copyrighted works in the U.S., see the U.S. Copyright Office FAQs.
Are Out-of-Print books still protected by copyright?
Yes. Whether a book is out of print does not affect its copyright status. The majority of books that are out of print are still protected by copyright.
How do I find out who owns the copyright for a particular work?
You should consult the copyright notice in the work as well as any acknowledgments. If you have a photocopy that does not contain a copyright notice or list acknowledgments, refer to an original copy of the work. Additionally, the U.S. Copyright Office maintains records of registered works by author and title.
Is there a limit to the amount of material for which a publisher will grant permission?
In general, publishers and copyright holders do not allow photocopying or reprinting of more than 10% of any in-print publication. You may be permitted to copy greater percentages of out-of-print titles.
Are there any secondary source pitfalls I need to avoid?
Yes. If you’re taking material from an edited collection or another textbook, you must confirm and provide the primary source information. Was this reading included “by permission of” someone else? Look for credit lines at the point of use, in the front matter, end-matter, or at the beginning of the selection. Also, authors often like to use material from textbooks found on their shelves; but remember, sending permission requests to a secondary source can add 3–5 weeks of clearance time. Making note of those citations early will help speed up the process and avoid unnecessary research.
What information is needed to get the permission clearance process started?
Permissions Clearance Source Information:
- Book or Journal Title
- Book Edition
- Publication Date
- Primary Page Numbers (i.e. entire reading covers pp. 23-35, but you’re only using pp. 28-32)
- Description of the Material
- Screen Shot from Website Cited (If Appropriate).
Recommended Copyright Related Resources with Links (Click on each link below for more information):
- U.S. Copyright Office
- Copyright Clearance Center
- National Association of College Stores (Questions & Answers on Copyrights for the Campus Community)