Full compliance with intellectual property laws of the United States is the responsibility of each University employee and student. The Copyright Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-553) and its revisions and supplements must be observed. LSUE employees also must follow the policies set forth in PM 15: Copyright Guidelines Regarding Electronic Learning, and PM 17: Fair Use of Copyright Material. Note: The information provided here is modeled from the LSU Libraries Copyright Page.
Universities create and consume copyrighted materials of all kinds as a matter of course. Faculty and staff routinely author copyrightable works as part of their teaching, research, and community outreach roles. Conversely, these roles rely upon being able to use other people's copyrighted materials. Copyrighted works are both the fuel and the product of universities.
Digitization and the internet have made it much easier to locate, reproduce and redistribute copyrighted material. With the lowering of the barriers to copying and re-using other's works, combined with automatic copyright protection for original works, some knowledge of copyright law has become an inescapable necessity for university faculty, staff, and students.
What is a copyright? It is a limited monopoly given to authors and creators of intellectual property to control uses of their work.
Why was copyright created? The Constitutional purpose of copyright is to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts" by giving authors and creators limited monopoly over uses of their work. The enrichment of authors/creators is a secondary goal.
Fundamentals: Copyright protection
Your default assumption should be that most works you encounter are copyrighted whether or not there is a copyright notice.
Perhaps the most critical limitation on the copyright holder's exclusive rights is the fair use exemption, codified in 17. U.S.C. §107. Fair use allows limited uses of portions (or sometimes all) of a copyrighted work without the need for prior permission. Favored fair uses include nonprofit educational, transformative uses or criticism, commentary or parody. Determining whether a particular use is fair requires weighing the four factors set forth in the statute:
There are no clear-cut rules that state when a particular use might be a 'fair use.' Instead, the four fair use factors must be evaluated in the context of the specific facts of the proposed use. Because of this, a reasonable, good faith fair use analysis is necessarily fact-driven. Reasonable and knowledgeable people can, and often do, disagree about whether a particular use at a particular time is a fair one. The fair use provision, while uncomfortable for some who wish for more certainty, is a deliberate choice by Congress and the courts to allow the doctrine to have flexibility and achieve a responsible balance between needs of creators and those of society.
Fair use, therefore, provides the necessary play in the joints without which society would become gridlocked in trying obtain permissions for any use of any amount of a copyrighted work. Fair use will always be an educated opinion - the adage "when in doubt, get permission" is entirely incompatible with the good faith exercise of the intent and purpose of the fair use provision of copyright law. To assume that one "answer" exists for the infinite variety of situations would destroy the very flexibility fair use is intended to address.
Given that faculty and students are frequent users of third party copyrighted materials in their courses, the responsible exercise of fair use is particularly crucial to each and every course taught. What could be more mission critical?
As you read through this short overview of fair use it is easy to become overwhelmed, but keep in mind the following:
Why is a fair use analysis being done in the first place? It is being done to determine whether the proposed use is a fair one and, therefore, does not require permission and payment of permission fees. In other words, it is being done to decide whether permission and, therefore, permission fees are even due, keeping in mind that the copyright holder cannot lose what isn't hers to begin with.
Note that the permission fee market will always be affected if permission fees are not paid but you can't lose what isn't yours. Affecting a permissions market is not affecting the market for the work. In other words, just because a permissions market exists should not determine whether a fee is necessary in the first place.
Use the LSU Libraries Fair Use Considerations Worksheet for assistance in your fair use deliberations and as documentation of your good faith effort.
For more information, please see the LSU Libraries Copyright page for:
Materials on this website are provided for informational and educational use only and do not constitute legal advice.