Copyright Policy and Resource Guide Foreword

It's rarely our intention to take or use what does not belong to us without the rightful owner's consent. But that's what we do if we copy another author's work without his or her permission. Sometimes the law gives us the right to copy without securing this permission. But other times it does not. The purpose of this guide is to help our community understand how to distinguish one time from another.

The United States Copyright Act regulates when and how we may use another person's work-when it is necessary to gain permission, when we may freely use the material without the creator's consent. Unfortunately, the Act is long, weighty and in some areas, open to a multitude of interpretations. Some of these interpretations are also common misconceptions. This guide will shed light on these misconceptions and give helpful guidelines for when and how to seek permission to use copyrighted material. The misconceptions below are common in an academic setting like ours.

Common Copyright Misconceptions

  • If I provide the copies free of charge then I'm not infringing on anyone's copyright. (No, no, a thousand times no! )
  • Only material bearing the copyright symbol (©) is copyright protected. (But wait, there's more!)
  • All educational use is "fair use." (We've been woefully misled!)
  • All non-profit use is "fair use." (Misled again.)
  • All material I find on the Internet is free to copy and use without permission. (That's it, no more follow the leader!)
  • I may freely use material when the copyright owner does not respond to my request. (I know, it's hard to believe, but the law protects even the non-responsive.)
  • Only the college can be held liable for infringement that arises out of my teaching duties. ("Oh, man, not my boat!")
  • I do not need permission for course pack material I only plan to use once. (Would that it were true.)
  • If the book is out of print then it may be copied as many times as necessary. (Is ANYTHING we've heard about this stuff true?)
  • If I don't have time to get permission, then I can make copies on the grounds of "spontaneity." (There aren't enough hours in the day, but in 4-6 weeks, there are PLENTY of hours to go around.)
  • If I received permission to include material in one course pack, then I can include the same material in subsequent course packs. (It would make our jobs easier, but alas, it is untrue.)