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Copyright and Fair Use Resource Center

This guide is intended to provide a basis for guiding copyright and fair use compliance standards and practice among the members of the Mitchell College community.

LIS Guiding Principles

Mitchell College Library and Information Services

Copyright Adherence Statement

The purpose of this web site is to provide a basis for guiding copyright compliance standards and practice among the members of the Mitchell College community. The field of copyright law and the interpretation of fair use are complex and in constant flux.  Nonetheless, it is both the obligation and the intention of Mitchell College Library and Information Services (LIS) to respect and to appropriately adhere to the provisions of the Fair Use Guideline of the U.S. Copyright Law, and by extension to be mindful of the congressional Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act, commonly known as the TEACH Act.     

It also is the intent of LIS to fully comply with all licenses and contractual agreements in the provision of resources and services to the Mitchell College community. LIS recognizes the role of copyright in promoting scholarly research and publication, and supports compliance with these laws by faculty, students, and staff.

Members of the campus community are advised to become as knowledgeable as possible regarding copyright and fair use as it pertains to their particular areas of work and study. LIS is pleased to make available a full array of resources, via this web site, to ensure that students, faculty, and staff have appropriate and adequate guidance in their various uses of copyrighted materials.  Members of the campus community are further advised that intentional disregard of federal policy and guidelines will place them at considerable risk of  liability for their personal actions.

LIS will continue to monitor the evolving compliance landscape and to keep the community informed of changes as we become aware of them.   Any questions or concerns may be addressed to

Adapted in part from the Connecticut College Library and Information Services Copyright Policy Statement for use at Mitchell College.


Copyright Basics

Copyright law applies to nearly all creative and intellectual works.

A wide and diverse range of materials are protectable under copyright law. Books, journals, photographs, art, music, sound recordings, computer programs, websites, and many other materials are within the reach of copyright law. Also protectable are motion pictures, dance choreography, and architecture. If you can see it, read it, hear it, or watch it, chances are it is protectable by copyright law.

Works are protected automatically, without copyright notice or registration.

These many different works are protected under copyright if they are "original works of authorship" that are "fixed in any tangible medium of expression." In other words, once you create an original work, and fix it on paper, in clay, or on the drive of your computer, the work receives instant and automatic copyright protection. The law today does not require placing a notice of copyright on the work or registering the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. The law provides some important benefits if you do use the notice or register the work, but you are the copyright owner even without these formalities.

Copyright protection lasts for many decades.

The basic term of protection for works created today is for the life of the author, plus seventy years. In the case of "works made for hire" (explained below), the copyright lasts for the lesser of either 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation of the work. The rules for works created before 1978 are altogether different, and foreign works often receive distinctive treatment. Not only is the duration of copyright long, but the rules are fantastically complicated.  

 The Meaning of Copyright Ownership

Owners hold specific rights. Copyright owners do not have all rights.

The law grants to owners a set of specified rights: reproduction of works; distribution of copies; making of derivative works; and the public performance and display of works. Some artworks have "moral rights" regarding the name of the artist on the work, or preventing destruction of some works. Owners may also have rights to prevent anyone from circumventing technological protection systems that control access to the works.

Author is the copyright owner.

As a general rule, the initial owner of the copyright is the person who does the creative work. If you wrote the book or took the photograph, you are the copyright owner.

Employer may be the copyright owner.

If you created the work as an employee, acting within the scope of your employment, the work may be a "work made for hire." In that event, the copyright owner is the employer. If you are an employee, and your job is to create software code, the copyright probably belongs to your employer.

Copyrights can be transferred.

The law may make you or your employer the copyright owner, but the law also allows the owner to transfer the copyright. With a written and signed instrument, your employer can give you the copyright. In the academic setting, the transfer of copyrights in our books and articles to publishers is common practice. The ability to transfer or retain our copyrights is an opportunity to be good stewards of our intellectual works.

Fair Use and Other Rights of Use

Activities within fair use are not infringements.

Fair Use is an important right to use copyrighted works at the college. Fair use can allow us to clip, quote, scan, share, and make many other common uses of protected works. But not everything is within fair use. Fair use depends on a reasoned and balanced application of four factors: the purpose of the use; the nature of the work used; the amount used; and the effect of the use on the market for the original.

Fair use is one of many statutory rights to use copyrighted works.

Fair use is now encoded in the U.S. Copyright Act, which also includes many other provisions allowing uses of works in the classroom, in libraries, and for many other purposes. These statutes, however, are highly detailed, and the right to use works is usually subject to many conditions and limitations.

Uses are also allowed with permission.

If your use of a copyrighted work is not within one of the statutory exceptions, you may need to secure permission from the copyright owner. A non-exclusive permission does not need to be in writing, but a signed writing is almost always good practice. The permission may come directly from the copyright owner, or through the Copyright Clearance Center or similar agency. 

© 2008 Columbia University Libraries/Information Services | Developed by Center for Digital Research and Scholarship

Digital Copyright Slider

Tales from the Public Domain: Bound by Law?

According to iLibrarian:  "A project of Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, Tales from the Public Domain: Bound by Law? presents the ins-and-outs of public domain, fair use, and copyright law in an easy-to-understand format. This 70-page, masterfully illustrated and incredibly detailed comic book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, and offers free digital versions for download as well as makes individual pages accessible for remixing. If you’re interested in learning more about intellectual property law in an increasingly digitized and mashed-up culture, or you’re on the lookout for instructional materials, you’ll want to check this one out."

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