InfoIssues: April 2006 | Mansfield Library | The University of Montana-Missoula

The University of Montana Libraries—Missoula

A publication of the faculty of the Mansfield Library at the University of Montana

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To comment on this issue or to suggest an issue, please contact Jennie Burroughs, Chair, Key Constituencies Committee.

Issue of the Month: April 2006

Copyright Issues and Resources

- Samantha Hines, Assistant Professor
Social Sciences Librarian

Copyright strongly affects all of us at UM. Faculty, staff and students have a legal, and perhaps moral, responsibility to understand how they can and cannot use others’ creations in the course of education. But it can be difficult to determine your rights to use copyrighted material, if you need to seek permission, or even if something is copyrighted in the first place. Fortunately, we at the Mansfield Library are here to help you navigate the murky waters of copyright.

Copyright in America has its basis in the U.S. Constitution as an attempt to balance creators’ rights to profit from their works and the public’s right to use them. Over time, the balance has become increasingly slanted in favor of the creators. This can be seen in the recent Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act and the associated Supreme Court Case, Eldred v. Ashcroft, extending the term of copyright. In this same vein, there have been attempts to institute technological constraints on the copying and use of digital materials through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Broadcast Flag.

Contrary to popular belief, using material in the context of education doesn’t mean that you have free reign over owners’ rights. Permission ought to be sought when reproducing, distributing or displaying copyrighted works, from articles or websites to songs or images. However, exceptions can be claimed that justify the use of the work. The most common of these is Fair Use, which is the basis of most educational and research-driven use of copyrighted materials. Use of the material must, on balance, be justified by applying the following four factors: the nature of the work; substantiality; transformative effects; and market effects. Another common exemption is that of Public Domain, when works fall out of copyright protection after a set amount of time. This can be very hard to determine, especially with the Bono Act and other attempts to lengthen the term of copyright.

Even as copyright law becomes more stringent, creators of works are attempting to find ways to guarantee others’ rights to use their materials through programs such as Creative Commons. Registrants may establish how others can use their works via this website, and researchers can scan the database to find works licensed for use in projects.

The Mansfield Library has put together an informative copyright guide dealing with basic copyright concerns and questions, and it is our hope that this serves as a good starting point. This guide deals with issues such as:

· What types of items are protected by copyright
· The factors of Fair Use, the cornerstone of academic copyright permission
· When materials fall into public domain
· Copyright and distance education
· Copyright and media
· Copyright and the Internet

The guide also identifies Mansfield Library staff and faculty who are ready to help answer your questions on copyright and what is permissible. Please feel welcome to contact the people listed on this guide if you have any copyright issues or concerns.

To learn more about copyright, try these links:

The United States Copyright Office

Copyright and Fair Use (Stanford University Library)

Mansfield Library Guide: Copyright Issues and Resources

UM Bookstore Coursepack Guidelines

UMOnline Blackboard Copyright Tip Sheet

To comment on this issue or to suggest an issue, please contact Jennie Burroughs (, Chair, Key Constituencies Committee.