A work is protected under copyright from the moment it becomes fixed in a tangible medium. However, it is important to know that not everything is copyrightable. The law has defined 8 categories that works can fall under in order to be eligible for copyright protection:
The owner of a copyrighted work is granted the exclusive permission to:
Although the categories eligible for copyright protection are intentionally vague in order to afford a level of flexibility for future mediums, there are a few instances were copyright laws do not apply:
Here is a list of common problematic copyright scenarios:
Answer: Although Fair Use does favor using works for educational purposes, that is not the only factor that determines whether or not the use can be characterized as "fair use."
Answer: The Fair Use Doctrine gives no magic number when it comes to what would be considered an allowable amount. Though there are guidelines established by the House of Representatives as well as court cases that have set the precedent for the 10% rule, this is by no means a guaranteed safe harbor.
Answer: The copyright symbol can be a helpful indicator that the creator of the work is actively retaining their exclusive rights, but it is not a requirement for enforcement. When the work was published (or if it was never published) will be the deciding factor of whether or not copyright laws are still in effect.
Answer: Is the work published or unpublished? If it was published, did you retain copyright of the work? If unpublished, was the work entirely your own or does it have multiple creators? If it does have multiple creators, do you have their permission to use the work for your class?
Answer: Crediting a source is considered best practice and acts as a courtesy to the creator, but it does not substitute for permission.
Copyright restrictions are a concern for all educators as we plan for instruction. This guide can provide you with an introduction to some of the notable copyright exceptions and limitations that impact your ability to share resources with your students.
Please keep in mind - Ignorance of the law is not a defense!
You are responsible for understanding and working within the boundaries of copyright laws.