All members of the NSC community are expected to adhere
to the provisions of the United States Copyright Law and to take responsibility for copyright compliance.
The purpose of this Web site is to provide basic information
and guidelines for educators about the multi-layered, complex topic
of copyright, and to point to other resources that may be of assistance. Information on this web site is not comprehensive and is taken in large part from the law itself and/or published guidelines. See the section with resource links for additional information, including the U.S. Copyright Office Web site.
Copyright laws and guidelines specifically for libraries and
library staff are not included here except for those pertaining to
material requested by instructors to be put on reserve in the library.
What is Copyright?
Copyright grants the owner the right to control an intellectual or artistic creation and to require permission for others to use the work in specific ways. It is no longer necessary to register a work in order to assert copyright ownership. See below for examples of what is and what is not protected by copyright.
Copyright protects original works that are fixed in any
Some examples include literary works, musical works (including
any accompanying words), dramatic works, pantomimes and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, motion pictures and audiovisual works, sound recordings, architectural works, photographs, cartoons - and even the drawings of a child. If an idea is expressed in some way that you can see, hear, smell, or touch it,
it probably is protected by copyright.
Since copyright protects expressions in a fixed medium,
not protected are ideas that have not been recorded (even if talked
about with another person), choreography, improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded. Nor are compilations or lists of facts, procedures, processes, concepts, or works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship.
Another category of works that are not protected by copyright are U.S. Government publications. States and local governments can copyright their works if they wish. It is always best to check with the appropriate agency about copyright protection. Some works are old enough to be in the public domain.
Fair Use in Higher Education
There are some limitations on the exclusive rights of copyright --
fair use being of major importance to educators. It is important for educators to evaluate their potential use of copyrighted materials against fair use provisions and to obtain permissions for uses that exceed them. Not all educational uses are fair uses!
In addition, individual statutes make specific allowance for distance learning (see the TEACH Act), backup copies of software, and
some reproductions made by libraries.