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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998

Copyright FAQ

The Web is open to the public so can I copy or download information from the Internet?

Copying, distributing, downloading, and uploading information on the Internet may infringe on the rights of the copyright owner. Even an innocent, unintentional infringement violates the law.

How do I determine if a work is copyrighted?

Every audio, visual or written work has copyright protection unless that protection has expired or the creator places it in the public domain. The work does not have to have a copyright notice or a copyright symbol to be protected by copyright. If you cannot determine whether or not a work is copyrighted assume that it is copyrighted.

How can I use a copyrighted work legally?

You may use all or part of a copyrighted work only if you (a) have the copyright owner's permission, or (b) qualify for a legal exception that is called "Fair Use."

When seeking permission to use a copyrighted work, be specific about your intended use. State your role in using the work, the medium or media in which the copyrighted work will be used, how many times and in what way the copyrighted work will be used, how many people will see the work, whether or not it being used for profit; and how the work will be distributed.

After I obtain permission to use something, can I use it for anything?

Not necessarily. Permission to use copyrighted works is usually granted on a one-time basis for a specific use. Permission for one specific use is restricted to that one use. Further permission must be obtained to make broader or additional use of a work.

Is it true that educators do not have to worry about copyrights?

This is one of the trickiest and least understood areas of copyright law. Using a copyrighted work for educational purposes may be permitted under the legal doctrine known as “fair use,” but any use for educational purposes is not permitted automatically.

Do I have to ask permission to use a copyrighted work each time I use it?

Not necessarily. You may be able to use the work under the fair use doctrine and some exemptions for performance and display by colleges and universities and other nonprofit organizations are stipulated in the copyright laws.

Can I copy a work into a different medium?

Making a copy in a different medium without appropriate authorization would be a violation of the copyright owner's rights, unless the activity is excluded under other provisions of copyright law. The making of one copy of a work in a different medium may not be a copyright violation, but what you do or intend to do with that copy is important.

Can I store or archive a copyrighted work?

You must always secure permission from the owner, if not previously stated, before storing any copyrighted work, unless your use would fall under an exclusion such as the fair use doctrine.

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