In the United States, copyright is a set of legal rights granted to an author or creator of an original work. Copyright protection covers the work the moment it is fixed in a tangible medium such as paper, computer code, film, canvas and paint, clay, analog or digital sound recordings, etc.
A wide range of original works are eligible for copyright protection, including:
Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.
Works that are protected by copyright do not have to be published, do not have to bear the familiar copyright notice (c) and do not have to be registered with the U.S. Register of Copyright. These formalities of copyright were made optional under US law several decades ago. Nowadays you may still find works marked by the copyright symbol or deposited with the Copyright Office but, more commonly, many copyrighted works do not bear any notice. This is particularly true on the Internet, where millions of users upload copyrighted text, images, sounds and video to their web pages, blogs, FaceBook accounts, and other sites. Users are expected to know that unmarked works may be fully protected by copyright and to understand how to use these works properly.
When a work is protected by US copyright, the owner of that work has the exclusive right to:
Copyright owners also have the exclusive right to grant other people permission to use their works in any of the ways listed above.
Asking permission is the safest way to make sure you are in compliance with copyright law, but it is not necessary in every case.
You do NOT have to ask permission when:
You no doubt prepare papers, projects, and other assignments that require you to consult and draw on works created by others. These works contain valuable information that is necessary for your studies, research, creative pursuits, and service activities on campus. And these works may also be protected by copyright, the federal law that governs how original works may be copied, modified, distributed and shared.
If you are using any sort of material that you yourself did not create, you need to think carefully about copyright. Using someone else's copyrighted material without permission could constitute copyright infringement, an illegal and unethical act that violates not only US law but also the Aggie Honor Code, as well as other professional and research standards of conduct.
To comply with copyright law and with standards for ethical conduct, you need to do one of three things:
How do you know what approach to take in your particular situation? That's what this Guide is designed to help with. Here you will find some brief explanations of key copyright concepts as well as resources for learning more.
Ultimately, everyone makes his or her own decision as to whether, or how, to use copyrighted works in a legal and ethical way. The information and resources are offered here to provide helpful and reliable information you can use to make that decision.
Once you determine the need for permission, don't be afraid to ask!
The key to getting permission is being organized and following the necessary steps:
You will need all of this information in order to determine who is the appropriate person to grant permission.
This may take some research and persistence. It may be the publisher of a book or other literary work; the movie producer of a film; the recording studio of a musical work; or the heir of a deceased copyright owner. Many large rights owners, such as publishers and movie studios, post their rights clearance process on their websites. You may also be able to identifyrights owners by searching the records of the U.S. Copyright Office or the database of the Copyright Clearance Center.
In the case of multiple owners, authors or creators you only need to secure the permission from one of the copyright holders.
There are no hard and fast rules for requesting permission, but it is generally a good idea to include the following informatin in your request:
A printed letter or an email is okay.
If you are not successful in securing permission on your own, you may wish to consult one of the copyright licensing services, such as Copyright Clearance Center, for assistance. These services may be fee-based and you may be expected to pay to license the work for your purpose.
Three categories of materials that are free to use without copyright concerns are:
This category includes older works for which copyright has expired; works for which the creator has chosen to forfeit all rights; and many works created by employees of the U.S. government as part of their regular assignment. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.
This category includes works that are copyrighted, but have been licensed for certain uses by their copyright owners. For example, some authors and artists choose to share their works using a Creative Commons license that allows other users to copy, distribute, and sometimes even modify the works without asking permission.
The Westchester Community College Library license a wide variety of databases, electronic journals, image collections and other useful resources. Some kinds of uses are allowed to WCC students, faculty and staff as part of the licensing agreements for these resources. If you want to copy, share, modify, display or perform any of the resources provided by the WCC Library, check the 'Terms &* Conditions' page included within that resource to see which, if any, uses are allowed.
It is up to each individual user to comply with the terms and conditions of all resources provided by the Libraries.