Campus Health and Safety Information

Copyright Laws

Copyright is a form of legal protection for authors of original works, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and other intellectual products not consider in the public domain.

Federal copyright laws prevent, in most cases, copying such material for more than personal use (a page or chapter from a book, an article from a magazine or periodical, etc). Computer software is also protected by copy­right laws and licensing agreements. Violations of laws and policies include the making or use of unauthorized software by copying, sharing, lending, giving, and transferring and/or installing software that was not covered by licensing agreements held by the College. Software not purchased by the College is considered unauthorized for all campus computers owned by the College. Compliance with copyright laws is expected. Violations in cases regarding printed materials or computer software constitute grounds for disciplinary action by the College and/or prosecution by the software manufacturer and the College.

Publication is not essential for copyright protection, nor is the well known symbol of the encircled "c". Section 106 of the Copyright Act (90 Stat 2541) generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • Reproduce copies of the work.
  • Prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work.
  • Distribute copies of the work by sale, rental, lease, or lending.
  • Publicly perform the work (if it is a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic work or a pantomime, motion picture or audiovisual work).
  • Publicly display the work (if it is a literary, musical, dramatic, choreographic, sculptural, graphic, or pictorial work -- including the individual images of a film -- or a pantomime).

The copyright owner retains these rights even when the work itself belongs to someone else. However, the rights are not absolute. They are subject to both "Fair Use" limitations, which apply to all media, and medium-specific limitations.

Fair Use

The doctrine of fair use, embedded in section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, addresses the needs of scholars and students by mitigating the rights of copyright ownership. However, what constitutes fair use is expressed in the form of guidelines rather than explicit rules. To determine fair use, consider the following four factors [from What Educators Should Know About Copyright, by Virginia M. Helm; Bloomington, IN, Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, 1986]:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether the copied material will be for nonprofit, educational, or commercial use. This factor at first seems reassuring; but unfortunately for educators, several courts have held that absence of financial gain is insufficient for a finding of fair use.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work, with special consideration given to the distinction between a creative work and an informational work. For example, photocopies made of a newspaper or newsmagazine column are more likely to be considered a fair use than copies made of a musical score or a short story. Duplication of material originally developed for classroom consumption is less likely to be a fair use than is the duplication of materials prepared for public consumption. For example, a teacher who photocopies a workbook page or a textbook chapter is depriving the copyright owner of profits more directly than if copying one page from the daily paper.
  • The amount, substantiality, or portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. This factor requires consideration of 1) the proportion of the larger work that is copied and used, and 2) the significance of the copied portion.
  • The effect of the use on the potential market of the copyrighted work. This factor is regarded... as the most critical one in determining fair use; and it serves as the basic principle from which the other three factors are derived and to which they are related. If the reproduction of a copyrighted work reduces the potential market and sales and, therefore, the potential profits of the copyright owner, that use is unlikely to be found a fair use.

Public Domain

Public Domain for Published Works

Time of publication


Public Domain status

Before 1923


In public domain

Between 1923 and 1928

Published with a copyright notice

In public domain

Between 1978 and March 1, 1989

Published without a notice but with subsequent registration

10 years after the death of the author, or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation

Between 1923 and 1963

Published with notice and copyright was renewed

In public domain

Between 1923 and 1963

Published with notice and copyright was renewed

65 years after publication date

Between 1964 and March 1, 1989

Published with no notice

70 years after the death of author, or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years of publication or 120 years from creation

After March 1, 1989


70 years after the death of author, or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years of publication or 120 years from creation


From Russell, Carrie. Complete Copyright: An Everyday Guide for Librarians. Chicago, American Library Association, 2004.
For more information on the US copyright laws and penalties for violations, see: