Copyright (FS 7.18)

7.18.1 Copyright Protections

Copyright provides certain forms of protection to authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. It is based on federal law (title 17, U.S. Code), and gives to the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work (examples include such things as translations, musical arrangements, motion picture versions, art reproductions, sound recordings, or any other form in which a work is recast or adapted);
  • To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  • To display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and
  • In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

7.18.2 Limitations On the Scope of Copyright Protection

Anyone who violates any of the rights provided by the copyright law may be held civilly or criminally liable. These rights, however, are not unlimited in scope. Two important exemptions from copyright liability for educators are the fair use exemption established by chapter 1, section 107, title 17, U.S. Code and the distance education exemption established by chapter 1, section 110, title 17, U.S. Code. The fair use exemption outlines certain situations for which the reproduction of a particular work is considered “fair,” and the distance education exemption outlines situations in which instructors in nonprofit educational institutions may transmit online non-dramatic written works and portions of dramatic works such as movies.

7.18.3 Types of Works Protected By Copyright

Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. The following categories are included: literary works; musical works, including any accompanying words; dramatic works, including any accompanying music; pantomimes and choreographic works; pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; motion pictures and other audiovisual works; sound recordings; architectural works. The following works are not protected by copyright: works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, an improvisational speech that has not been written or recorded); titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; listings of ingredients such as recipes; ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices; information that is common property such as calendars, height and weight charts, rulers.

7.18.4 Notice of Copyright

Since 1989, works no longer need to carry notice of copyright (such as the letter c in a circle) in order to be protected. Copyright is secured automatically when a work is created. Works are created when they are fixed in a medium such as a book, manuscript, videotape, sheet music, or CD. Digital works created on the internet are copyrighted automatically as well.

7.18.5 Duration of Copyright and Materials in the Public Domain

How long copyright lasts can be a complicated issue, but “life +70 years” applies in many situations. Consult this table to learn more about when works pass into the public domain.

7.18.6 Fair Use

Fair use, outlined in chapter 1, section 107, title 17, U.S. Code, allows copyrighted works to be reproduced for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, and research. If a use of a copyrighted work is determined to be fair, one does not need to pay royalties or obtain permission to use or reproduce the work.

Section 107 sets out four factors that must be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair. Those factors are:

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

All educational uses of copyrighted works are not necessarily fair. Each time a copyrighted work is used, a fair use analysis must be conducted using the four factors. Generally, if one is using a small amount of a published, factual work in an educational setting, and that use has no effect on the market for that work, the use is likely fair. It is the responsibility of all UW-River Falls faculty, staff, and students to conduct a fair use analysis each time a copyrighted work is used, and to make a reasonable, good faith determination if the use is fair or not. Helpful information on how to perform a fair use analysis each time one uses a copyrighted work is available at

Although one must determine fair use on a case-by-case basis, some uses of copyrighted works clearly are not fair. Some examples of activities that would not pass a fair use analysis are:

  • copying large sections of a work (the “heart of the work”) and distributing it to all students in a class or posting it online for students
  • combining a number of copyrighted works into a course pack and selling copies to students without obtaining permission or paying royalties
  • taping a movie to show in class and retaining and using the copy indefinitely
  • duplicating an entire CD or video and giving the copy to a friend
  • sharing copies of copyrighted music or software on the internet
  • obtaining a video on loan, duplicating it, and using it in class

Because the distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear, groups of interested individuals that have a stake in copyright compliance have written guidelines that help define fair use of copyrighted materials in certain situations. UW-River Falls does not endorse these guidelines as policy, but suggests that faculty, students, and staff refer to these guidelines as minimum application of the fair use exemption. While a final determination of fair use legally can be made only after a good faith analysis of the four fair use factors, the guidelines may be helpful during that analysis. The guidelines are outlined in the Final Report to the Commissioner on the Conclusion of the Conference on Fair Use.

More information on fair use is available at the U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Fact Sheet.

7.18.7 Copyright in the Digital Age Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was enacted in 1998. It was an effort to update copyright law to take into account digitally produced and reproduced materials. The act affects universities in their role as internet service providers and information technology providers. It requires that universities make reasonable efforts to insure that the copyright protections applying to digital material are in place on their campuses. UWRF has undertaken the necessary steps to be in compliance with this law. Further information on the educational impact of DMCA is provided by EDUCAUSE.

The U.S. Copyright Office provides a summary of the DMCA legislation. TEACH Act

The newest revision of copyright law affecting universities is The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act, (TEACH Act) which became law in November 2002. The TEACH Act modifies existing copyright law to allow educators to use some copyright protected materials in distance education without gaining prior permission and/or paying royalties without violating copyright law. The general intention of the act was to make the same "fair use" criteria that apply to face-to-face educational contexts also apply to distance education.

The TEACH Act applies only to accredited educational institutions that have stated copyright policies which are made available to faculty, staff and students. In order to comply with the TEACH Act, copyrighted material made available via distance education must, among other things, meet the following criteria:

  • access must be limited to enrolled students
  • access must be limited to the time needed to complete the class session
  • reasonable efforts must be made to prevent students from copying and disseminating the material after they view it
  • analog material cannot be converted to a digital format, if it is readily available in a digital format
  • the material must have been legally acquired initially

All UWRF faculty and staff engaged in distance education should become familiar with the provisions of this law.

More information:

American Library Association: Distance Education and the TEACH Act

The Copyright Management Center at Indiana University – Purdue University - Indianapolis

Read the TEACH Act.