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In our society, copyright law is ubiquitous, unavoidable and applicable whether you know anything about it or not. In other words, ignore it at your own peril.
Copyright Law: The Short Version
• Legal Copyright Protection-
- applies to works in every media format
- arises automatically (no action required) as soon as
o an original work (writing, photo, song, movie, etc.)
o is fixed in a tangible medium of expression
o applies even if there is no copyright notice for works
created after 1989; no registration or publication required,
• Rights of the Copyright Holder (exclusive to the holder)
- To reproduce the work (copy)
- To make derivative works (modify or base your work on it)
- To distribute the work
- To publicly perform the work
- To publicly display the work
- To publicly perform a sound recording by digital transmission
• How long does a copyright last?
- Works created after 1978 – term is the life of the author + 70 years
o If such works cannot be tied to lives – term is 120 years from date of creation or 100 years from the date of publication, whichever shorter
- Works created before 1978, please check these charts:
o Copyright Term and the Public Domain inthe United States
o WHEN WORKSPASS INTO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
o One rule of thumb: Works published in the U.S. before 1923 are in the public domain
o Works created by federal government employees with the scope of their employment are not copyrighted
- Works that failed to comply with required formalities, when required or whose copyright has expired are also in the public domain.
Fair Use: What You Need To Know
Fair Use can be appropriately characterized as the most critical limitation on the copyright holder's monopoly control of their work. It allows certain uses of (generally) portions of a copyrighted work without the need for prior permission from the work's holder. The inherent flexibility of fair use provides the necessary play in the joints between creators and those who would use portions of their works, thus enabling copyright law to achieve its Constitutional purpose of promoting the progress of science and the useful arts. Given that faculty and students are frequent users of 3rd party copyrighted materials in the classes, the responsible exercise of fair use is particularly crucial to each and every class taught in America. What could be more mission critical?
The doctrine of fair use is codified in Section 107 of the Copyright Act, where favored uses, such as education, commentary, news reporting , and criticism are set forth in the preamble, followed by four factors to be considered when determining whether a particular use is a fair use. These factors speak to general characteristics of the work used, the purpose of the use, the amount used and what potential effect the proposed use might have on the market for the original work. Rigid, bright line rules do not exist in the statute. To assume that one "answer" exists for the infinite variety of situations would destroy the very flexibility fair use is intended to address.
What Do I Need To Know?
You have now read about some very basic copyright law and you know that pretty much everything is copyrighted, whether it wants to be or not. What you need to know next are the exceptions or limitations on those exclusive rights that you rely on to carry out the teaching, learning, research, and outreach activities that comprise the heart of the university: topics like fair use, the online use of materials, the library exceptions, and the performance and displays permitted. You also need to know how to ask permission for your use should none of the exemptions apply to your situations. Even then, you may not find the answer you need; there are many resources available to you here at UNCC, including the Office of Legal Affairs and the Copyright Education Specialist, in the Atkins Library.