What is Copyright?
Copyright is a form of legal protection for authors of original works, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and other intellectual products. This protection applies to published and unpublished works, including those not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyrights usually last through the life of the author, plus seventy years. 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:
a. Reproduce copies of the work.
b. Prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work.
c. Distribute copies of the work by sale, rental, lease, or lending.
d. Publicly perform the work.
e. Publicly display the work.
Works no longer need to be registered with the Copyright Office to be officially copyrighted.
Who assumes liability for copyright infringements?
With the passage of the DMCA, the law limits the liability of nonprofit institutions of higher education (when they serve as on-line service providers and under certain circumstances) for copyright infringement by faculty members or students. For example, the University is protected from legal liability when network users share unauthorized material -- if it takes action when notified of a copyright breach. The University is legally required to take action to cause the infringing activity to cease. Actions may include invalidation of an e-mail account, disconnecting a network port, and a report to the appropriate dean or manager for disciplinary action. In the case of repeat infringers, the University is required under the law to take away the infringer's computer account and terminate all access to our network. In addition to any University action, the copyright owner may also take further legal action against the individual concerned.
Section 108(f) of the law exempts library liability for the Unsupervised use of "reproducing equipment located on its premises" provided that the equipment displays a notice that the making of a copy may be subject to the copyright law. This exemption would seem to underscore the importance of public posting of copyright notices in appropriate campus locations. Sample language for the notice:
NOTICE: THE COPYRIGHT LAW OF THE UNITED STATES (TITLE 17 U.S. CODE) GOVERNS THE MAKING OF PHOTOCOPIES OR OTHER REPRODUCTIONS OF COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL. THE PERSON USING THIS EQUIPMENT IS LIABLE FOR ANY INFRINGEMENT.
Supervised use: Faculty, staff, and students should verify that all copying complies with copyright law before requesting that copies be made by Support Services and other employees of the University.
As stated previously, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act currently exempts online service providers from copyright infringement liability for simply transmitting information over the Internet. Because the institution offers Internet access to the faculty, staff, and students, it is considered an online "service provider" with regard to copyright law. At present, Mary Baldwin provides connections for digital online communications for authorized users, of material of the user's choosing, without modifying the content sent or received. However, this exemption is being tested in the courts and may be revoked or modified in the future.