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What is copyright?

The Oxford Dictionary definition of copyright states: “The exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.”  So, what does that really mean…..

“When you write a poem, story, or even a paper for class, or create a drawing or other artwork, you automatically own the copyright to it.  Copyright is a form of protection given to the authors or creators of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other intellectual works. That means, as the author of the work, only you have the right to any of the following or let others do any of the following:

  • make copies of your work;
  • distribute copies of your work;
  • perform your work publicly (plays, film, dance, music);
  • display your work publicly (artwork, photos, material used on the internet); and
  • make “derivative works” (including making modifications, adaptations or other new uses of a work, or translating the work to another media).

In other words, it is illegal for anyone to do any of the things listed above with a work created by you without your permission, but there are some exceptions and limitations to your rights. One major limitation is the doctrine of “Fair Use”.”

(Original content from copyrightkids.org)

What is Fair Use?

The Oxford dictionary definition of Fair Use states: (in US copyright law) “The doctrine that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.”

Factors to be considered include:

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is for a commercial purpose or is for non-profit educational purposes;
  • what kind of work is the copyrighted work (for instance, is it creative or factual);
  • the amount and importance of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;
  • the effect of the use upon the potential commercial market for or value of the copyrighted work.

There have been lawsuits to determine whether or not a use if “fair”.  Some example of cases involving the defense of fair use:

  • The court held that a book of trivia questions about the “Seinfeld” TV program was not fair use.  Although the book was transformative, the TV program was a work of fiction accorded special status under copyright law.  The book drew upon essential elements of the TV program, and occupied a market for a derivative work that the Copyright Holder was entitled to control.  Castle Rock Entertainment v. Carol Pub. Group, Inc., 955 F. Supp. 260 (S.D.N.Y. 1997), aff’d, 150 F.3d 132 (2d Cir. 1998).
  • The court held that the use in a TV biography about Muhammed Ali of up to 14 film clips of historical footage, each between 41 seconds and two minutes long, was likely to be fair use. Ali was a public figure and his TV biography was the subject of public interest. The allegedly infringing film clips were not the focus of documentary and were not particularly noticeable, and use of the film clips was not likely to the undercut market for a motion picture. Monster Communications, Inc. v. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., 935 F. Supp. 490 (S.D.N.Y. 1996).
  • The court held that a parody of the song “I Love New York” performed in a skit on “Saturday Night Live” poking fun at New York City’s public relations campaign and its theme song was a protected fair use. Elsmere Music, Inc. v. NBC, 623 F.2d 252 (2d Cir. 1980).
  • The court held that that use of copyrighted music played during a parade that happened to be televised by ABC was a fair use. Italian Book Corp. v. ABC, Inc., 458 F. Supp. 65 (S.D.N.Y 1978).
    (Original content from copyright kids.org)

What is First Sale Doctrine?

“The “first sale” doctrine recognizes that ownership of a copyright is different from ownership of a material object that is the subject of a copyright. For example, owning a copy of the book “The Catcher in the Rye” does not mean that you own the copyright in the story. Under the first sale doctrine, the owner of a lawfully-made copy of a copyrighted work may sell, rent or transfer that copy or publicly display that copy without the Copyright Owner’s Permission. That means you can buy a book or a videotape and give it to friend or sell it at a yard sale, but you cannot make a copy of that book or videotape and sell or give that copy away. But note that there is an exception to the first sale doctrine for the rental of Sound Recordings and computer programs. To rent copies of copyrighted sound recordings or computer programs, you must get permission from the copyright owner. A hot issue these days is whether the first sale doctrine should apply at all to the Internet and other digital media where owners of lawfully-made copies of works can transmit copies of those works and still keep their lawfully-made copies.” (Original content from copyright kids.org)

What is Public Domain?

The Oxford dictionary definition of Public Domain states: “The state of belonging or being available to the public as a whole.  Not subject to copyright.”

“Works that are in the public domain belong to everyone and can be freely used without compensating the authors. There are many reasons why a work may be in the public domain. For example, works consisting entirely of information that is commonly available and that contain no original authorship are in the public domain. Works that previously were entitled to copyright protection enter the public domain when the term of the copyright has expired. Under the 1909 Copyright Act, if a work was published without a Copyright Notice, protection was lost and the work entered the public domain when it was first published.” (Original content from copyright kids.org)

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