Welcome to the Walden Library's brief tutorial on the basics of copyright and fair use. This tutorial should take about 10 minutes to complete.
Because this is a basic tutorial we don't expect that you'll be a copyright expert by the end, but our goal is that you'll at least understand what copyright is, who it protects, and what it protects. We'll also briefly cover what fair use is and what it means for you as a scholar.
Copyright law can be confusing, but don't worry, we can at least make sense of some of the fundamentals things that apply to you as a scholar here at Walden University.
Here are just a few different scenarios that you may find yourself in from time to time. It's okay if you don't know the answers to these questions! We'll come back to them at the end of the tutorial, but keep them in the back of your mind for the time being
The main purpose of copyright law is to promote advancements in the arts and sciences by giving creators and inventors a temporary command over all rights associated with their creations.
Copyright law protects creators and encourages more creation and discovery, and copyright also spells out how the public can use these materials.
Copyright is all about a balance being struck between public interests and individual rights.
You may be surprised by what is eligible for copyright protection. That shopping list you wrote down? That's covered! An email you wrote to a friend last week? Covered as well! A paper you wrote for class? Definitely covered! There are just a few basic requirements for a creation to be protected by copyright. A work must exist in a tangible medium. It must be an original expression by the creator, and it must be the result of some effort.
And it doesn't matter how well written, polished, or crafted your creation is. It's covered automatically. No need to do anything.
Take a look at the table on the screen. Copyrightable materials can be classified in a number of different ways. These categories are meant to be broad enough to cover all created materials.
Copyright grants a number of different rights to the creators that allow them to protect their creations, share or broadcast their creations, and benefit from them if they so wish.
Not everything is eligible for copyright. For example, documents created by the federal government. Government documents are freely available to share and use. Copyright also doesn't last forever so older works may no longer be covered by copyright. For example, Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein", which was published in the 19th century is no longer covered by copyright.
Ideas and scientific principles, like how many miles it is from the earth to the moon, or the second law of thermodynamics, are also not covered by copyright. Nor are common facts like "who the first president of the united states was", or "how long a year is".
You may be able to copyright that funny dog calendar you designed, but the idea of a calendar is not something eligible for copyright protection. Nor is something like the basic idea of a tape measure
As was mentioned before, copyright protection only lasts for a specific period of time. The length of time is meant to provide protection for the creator during the duration of his or her life and then for a period after the creator's death. 70 years after the creator's death is the current range of coverage for copyright protected items.
Now that we've covered the basics of copyright protection, let's switch gears and talk about another important aspect of copyright law: fair use. In brief, the concept of fair use is something that exists to give educators, students, researchers, and news reporters some ability to use limited amounts of copyrighted materials in their own work.
A rights holder's monopoly on their creation or discovery can be limited if and when it conflicts with the greater public good. In order for fair use to apply you have to consider the following: what materials are being used, how much is being used, and what effects this use will have on the value of the materials in question.
To actually determine whether or not something should be considered fair use requires a case-by-case analysis involving four different considerations.
The first consideration is the purpose and character of the use in question. Is the work being used for a purpose other than the purpose for which it was originally created? Is the work being used for an educational purpose, or is the work being used for material gains for someone other than the original creator?
The second consideration is the nature of the copyrighted work in question. Are we talking about a scholarly journal or a book? Is it a work of fiction or an audio recording of a song? Are we talking about a sculpture or a painting or perhaps something else entirely?
The third consideration is the amount and the degree of importance of the portion being used. Basically, how much is used, and does that amount make up a large percent of the substantive content of the material in question.
The final consideration is how your use will affect the market value of the copyrighted work. Basically, will the original creators still be able to benefit fully from their creation after you have used part of it for your own work.
Now let's go back to the earlier scenarios mentioned at the beginning of this tutorial.
The first scenario involves sharing a journal article with a fellow classmate.
Can you legally do this? The short answer is it depends. Sharing journal articles falls into a gray area of sorts because spontaneous one-time sharing of materials directly related to your coursework does fit a lot of fair use criteria. However journals have a model in place to license individual articles to those interested in reading them. Sharing articles with your classmates subverts this model, which makes it a bit tricky to call this fair use.
This scenario is a bit different from the last one because making an article available to the general public on a website would be difficult to defend in the name of education.
So the answer is definitely no. You can't control who downloads the article, the number of people who download the article, or why they downloaded it in the first place.
This scenario may seem a lot like the first one as one student sharing scholarly materials with another student, but the real issue here is the amount of the material being shared.
Copying an entire book falls outside the protection of fair use because you have to consider the effect that your copying will have on the market value of the item in question.
So what can we take away from all of this? Well,
there are a couple of things that you as a student here at Walden should keep in mind at all times.
First, remember the Walden Code of Conduct, which urges you to be mindful of copyright law at all times. Be in the habit of getting permission to use anything created by another author, whether the item in question is a chart, a graph, a table, or whatever. The old rule "better safe than sorry" really does apply here. Don't assume you're covered by fair use. Be mindful of copyright law and get permission before you use anything.
There are a couple of interesting developments surrounding the issue of copyright law and we'll just briefly touch on two that may have the most impact on you and your work>
We'll be talking about open access and creative commons licensing.
Open access has been making a lot of waves in the scholarly publishing community in recent years.
The idea behind open access is simply to make research and other scholarly materials available without cost to the reader. Proponents of open access insist that removing the barriers to research means more benefits to society and more innovation.
Two examples of open access include institutional repositories and open access journals.
Institutional repositories are online locations where a research institution can place copies of articles, dissertations, theses, and other scholarly works produced by faculty, students, and staff. Institutional repositories allow scholarly content to remain available without needing a subscription to a journal or other publication. Open access journals are journals that instead of requiring a subscription, provide free and immediate access to its published contents.
Creative commons is a non-profit organization that has released several easy to use licenses for creative works. These licenses don't replace copyright but rather work with copyright law to help creators promote sharing of intellectual property in an easy to use kind of way.
Creative commons licenses allow creators to clearly communicate which rights they wish to retain and which rights they wish to waive in regards to their created works.
Again, the idea behind creative commons licenses is to promote a greater ability to share and reuse creative materials.
Well that does it for this tutorial. I hope that it was instructive and that you learned some things about copyright law and fair use. Remember, if you have any questions about copyright or fair use or anything discussed during this tutorial please don't hesitate to contact the Walden Library.
You'll see our email address and our telephone number up on the screen.
We love talking to students, so please don't be shy.
Created October 2013 by Walden University Library