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Basics of copyright rules, restrictions, and permissions for students, faculty and staff.


General Copyright Statement

During this time of rapid change to the format and delivery of instruction, please be aware that there have not been many changes to copyright law. This article explains some of the pitfalls associated with trying to get access to online resources as companies and institutions change their operating procedures or business models/

If you have questions or concerns, please contact Pam O'Sullivan, Drake Library's Copyright Liaison.

Introduction to Copyright

Every day, the Internet puts an immeasurable amount of material  within the reach of anyone who has access to a computer. Every day, people share with others things they have found on the Internet, often without acknowledging the person or entity that created these  items. Unlike books, video recordings, or musical cd's, all of which usually have a copyright notice clearly visible, items generated electronically appear to be free for the taking. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. The information contained in this guide will assist you in navigating the sometimes murky waters of copyright.

Basics of copyright

What is Copyright?

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. 

FACT #1 Copyright laws apply to written works including:

  • literature and software
  • music and lyrics
  • screenplays, pantomime and choreography
  • pictures, graphics (including maps) and sculpture
  • motion picture and audio/visual productions (including podcasts)
  • sound recordings
  • architecture

FACT #2 If a work lacks a © symbol or copyright notice, it does not mean you can use it freely. Copyright applies to a work as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form. A work does not have to be registered with the US Copyright Office for infringement action to be taken.

FACT #3 Acknowledging the source of a copyrighted material is not a substitute for obtaining permission.

FACT #4 Only the copyright owner has the exclusive rights to reproduce or display publicly their work. Only they can give permission for others to do the same.

FACT #5 There are cases where it is permitted to “borrow” materials without obtaining the copyright holder’s permission. This is called fair use.


Last Updated: Apr 15, 2024 10:08 AM