Please note that the information provided about copyright on this page pertains only to US Copyright Law. Different countries have different laws pertaining to copyright. The information on this page was created for educational use only and is not intended to be used as legal advice.
'Copyright is a form of legal protection provided by federal law to the owners of "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device." Works that are not yet “fixed” (recorded in some permanent form) are protected by state law.
Copyright applies to such things as books and articles, novels, plays, musical creations, choreography, works of art, films, textbooks, software, and course materials. Course materials include materials prepared for use in teaching, fixed or unfixed, in any form, including, but not limited to: digital, print, audio, visual, or any combination thereof. In addition, course materials include, but are not limited to, lectures, instructor notes, syllabi, study guides, bibliographies, visual aids, images, diagrams, multimedia presentations, and on-line and hybrid course materials.
Subject to various exceptions and limitations, a copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, and display or perform the work publicly. It is illegal to violate any of the rights provided by law to the owner of copyright.'
Copyright is granted to a creator when they make something in a tangible form--for example, a song, a movie, a book, a photograph, etc. Copyright doesn't protect ideas, but it does protect the work you create with your idea (provided it is original). You can read more on the 'What does copyright protect?' page on the US copyright website.
Copyright is intended to encourage the creation of new works by giving creators exclusive rights for set periods of time. These exclusive rights allows creators the opportunity to make money from their works, which incentivizes creators to continue making new works and generating new scholarship. Copyright owners have the exclusive right to: reproduce their work, distribute copies of or sell their work, and display their work publicly. These exclusive rights legally prevent the reproduction or reuse of these works without express permission from the copyright holder.
Nope! In some cases, such as work for hire, copyright belongs to the person who paid for the work (for example, the university hires a photographer to work as a university employee and take photos for marketing). Additionally, a creator can sell the rights to their work (for example, an author can sell the movie rights of their novel to a production company).
Additionally, copyright exists only for a certain period of time. Once that time expires, a work enters the public domain, which means anyone can use it (for example, many fairy tales are in the public domain--which is why there are so many movie versions of Cinderella!).
We encourage you to visit the US Copyright website for all your US copyright research needs!
As per Copyright.gov, the Fair Use doctrine allows for the "unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances." The following four factors are taken into consideration when determining if the use of copyright-protected works is considered Fair Use:
Fair use claims are evaluated on a case-by-case basis; there is no "exact formula" to be used when determining whether a use of a work is considered Fair Use.
SCU faculty and staff retain copyright over their teaching materials. Students who upload a faculty or staff member's teaching materials to course-sharing websites, such as Chegg, are violating copyright. Students who upload these materials are in violation of the Student Conduct Code. For more information about course-sharing websites in relation to academic integrity, please see the Course Sharing Websites page of this research guide, located on the left sidebar. Please also review the SCU Response on Copyright and File Sharing.
Different departments may have different rules regarding copyright and intellectual property rights over student works. We encourage you to reach out to members of your department if you have questions regarding the rights of scholarship of which you have helped to create.
As per the SCU Faculty Handbook, faculty members retain copyright over most course materials and scholarship. Course materials may include, but are not limited to, the following:
There are some exceptions to materials for which a faculty member retains copyright; those exceptions are listed below.
For the most part, faculty retain copyright over the works they create in regards to teaching and scholarship. However, the university does have the right to retain copyright over certain materials. The SCU Faculty Handbook describes the types of works created by university employees for which copyright is retained by the university: