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Copyright in Higher Education: Resources for Students

What is Copyright?

Why doesn't the copyright symbol have to mark any piece of work?

  • Must be fixed in any tangible medium of expression

What is protected?

Why wouldn't someone be happy if I use their work and it gives them more exposure?

  • Remember copyright grants exclusive rights to the copyright holder to create derivative works and to distribute the work.
  • What isn’t protected are ideas, procedures, processes, systems, concepts, principles, or discoveries. This is a little bit confusing, but what this is saying is you can’t copyright an idea, but you can copyright the expression of an idea in a work.

Is linking to websites a copyright violation?

  • No, providing a link to a publicly available website is not in itself illegal; however downloading and redistributing content is a violation of copyright unless you obtain permission.
  • Works from a website should be presumed to be protected by copyright. The internet is not the equivalent of public domain. If a work is published online with a statement that it is in the public domain, you will have to judge whether or not these claims are trustworthy, keeping in mind that such claims will not protect you should a copyright holder object to your use.

What is Fair Use?

  • See the Fair Use section of this guide for more information
  • This is an exception to Copyright Law.  Sometimes society is better served by allowing some limited use of copyrighted materials in specific circumstances, such as criticism, comment, teaching, research, or scholarship.
  • You must apply the 4 factors in order to determine if your use qualifies: 
    • Purpose of the use – what is your intention/reason?
    • Nature - what was the thing created to do?
      • A work of scholarship which was published for the benefit of society
      • What if it’s a work that was designed to make money? For example: Disney holds exclusive rights for all distribution, which may include Trademarks for use of specific characters.
      • Transformative use: are you using the work for its exact intended purpose, or are you creating something new through your use?
    • Amount – clips vs. major portion or the “heart of the work” (the most memorable aspect of a work)
    • Effect - are you depriving the rights holder of income they’re entitled to? Or is your use the kind of use that they wouldn’t be able to monetize or that they weren’t intending to monetize?

How does this apply to my class projects?

What is a Trademark?

Does it have to be registered?

  • It is not required to register a mark to obtain protectable rights, however registered trademarks afford additional rights.

Why can't I reuse a company's logo or character?

  • Trademark infringement is when someone makes an “unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services.” See:

Can my student group host a movie screening on campus?

  • In most instances it is necessary to obtain permission (also known as Public Performance Rights, or PPR) before screening a film on campus, even if you're not charging admission. If you're not sure whether or not PPR applies to your proposed use, please consult Public Performance Rights Flowchart on the Clemson University Libraries Copyright Information page.

How do I get permission?

  • For information on how to obtain permission, please see the Public Performance Licenses section on the Motion Picture Association of America's website.

Digital Locks are governed by Digital Rights Management (DRM) rules.

What is Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

  • Technological limitations that control copyrighted works bought, sold, and traded through computer technologies.  The DMCA makes it illegal to circumvent these technologies.

What if I need to use part of something that has protection locks for my class project?

  • There are some exemptions described in the Code of Federal Regulations but it is important to interpret these very carefully as they only apply to very specific situations.
  • Some helpful information for media remixing projects or film students: “In October 2012, the Library of Congress included in those exemptions a relatively broad rule that allows academics to circumvent digital locks for scholarly purposes (37 C.F.R. Part 201). [...] The exemption applies only to lawfully made and acquired DVDs that are protected by Content Scrambling System (CSS). It does not require that the DVD be part of a university’s library collection (as an earlier rule did); the DVD can come from anywhere as long as it is not pirated or stolen. But it applies only to DVDs that use CSS; it does not, for example, apply to Blu-Ray discs or to video games. For such DVDs protected with CSS, college and university faculty, and college and university students of film and media studies (but not other students), are permitted to circumvent in order to incorporate short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism, comment, and education. […] Also, those types of “remix scholarship” discussed above are also now likely to be purposes, pretty clearly fair uses, for which technological locks need no longer be an obstacle. The rule specifies that circumvention is allowed only when short film clips are being incorporated into new works, such as a remix, an educational video, or a clip compilation. Thus it prevents technological protection measures from becoming a disabling obstacle for precisely those kinds of transformative educational uses that are, in themselves, most likely to be fair use.” Smith, Kevin L. Owning and using scholarship : an IP handbook for teachers and researchers. Chicago, Illinois : Association of College and Research Libraries, 2014, p122-123.

What is the Creative Commons?

  • Creative Commons licenses allow you to say how your work can be used by others.  For more information:
  • Pay attention to these symbols when you are using works made by others and learn what each one means so you follow the creator's wishes.

What are these different types of licenses?

Can Creative Commons help me find assets for my project?

  • Yes, go to: to find images, music, or videos you can use in your projects.  Be careful to pay attention to the permissions requirements for anything you find.

Citing Resources Used

Even if people give you permission to reuse their creations, it's best practice and often required that you give them credit.  Here are some examples that outline how to do this in MLA format for multimedia source types:

File Sharing and DMCA

What is McDaniel College's policy on peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing?

McDaniel College's policy on illegal file sharing can be accessed through the myMcDaniel Portal (login required).

What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)?

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