Definition of copyright: The U.S. Copyright Office defines copyright as: a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural and audiovisual creations.” “Copyright” literally means the right to copy but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery, though these may be protected by a patent. Similarly, names, titles, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, and listings of contents or ingredients are not subject to copyright, though they may be protected by a trademark. For more information please consult: http://copyright.gov/title17/circ92.pdf
Copyright infringement is the act of exercising, without permission or legal authority, one or more exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner under section 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code). These rights include the right to reproduce or distribute a copyrighted work. In the file-sharing context, downloading or uploading substantial parts of a copyrighted work without authority constitutes an infringement.
Penalties for copyright infringement include civil and criminal penalties. In general, anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or “statutory” damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For “willful” infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can, in its discretion, also assess costs and attorneys’ fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504-505.
Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense.
For more information, please see the website of the U.S. Copyright Office at http://www.copyright.gov/.
In addition to potential civil and criminal penalties, unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including (but not limited to) unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, constitutes a violation of University policy, and may result in disciplinary action by the University, up to and including termination/dismissal for employees and dismissal/expulsion for students.
Students must follow the copyright guidelines when doing research, publishing, or presenting material in a classroom or public setting. You should also note the following:
Cite where you obtained your material. Even for PowerPoint presentations (and especially for Prezi presentations on the web), it is important to indicate where you obtained your material. Just because it’s “on the web” does not mean it is free from copyright. Fair use—while definitely in your favor as a student—does not mean “free to copy,” especially when it is an entire work.
If using photographic material, limit your photos/illustrations to material with a Creative Commons license. Both Flickr and Google Images allow you to limit searches using their advanced searches to materials with a Creative Commons license.
Information regarding Fair Use for students is available in the Fair Use & TEACH Act Resources tab of this guide.
It is likewise important to realize that your work as a student is protected by copyright. Any work you author is automatically copyrighted—whether you filed for copyright or not. While parts of your work may be used under fair use guidelines, other reproduction requires your approval.
Detection services such as Turnitin do NOT violate your copyright, as decided in 2009 by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.