More than ever academics need to pay attention to copyright issues in
their own writing and in the use of material in class and on the
world wide web. Below are brief answers to some common questions
about copyright as seen from the perspective of United States law.
The material is from, Keys to Academic and Business Success by
Kenneth T. Henson, Eastern Kentucky University, Allyn and Bacon,
Boston, Copyright 1999 Allyn & Bacon A Viacom Company, Needham
Heights, MA 02194, pp. 128-130. Reprinted with permission.
UP NEXT: Balancing Faculty Roles
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QUESTIONS ABOUT COPYRIGHT
1. Exactly what is meant by copyright? Copyright is the legal right that
all authors and other artists have to prohibit others from copying their
work. Some of the copyright laws have changed, making the author's job of
keeping up with them challenging.
2. How long is the copyright valid? The time of endurance of copyright
has changed. The length of coverage depends on the date of the copyright.
To determine whether a work is still under copyright protection, first
check the date to see if it is before 1950. If so, the work will be under
protection for 75 years beyond the copyright date. For works published
between 1950 and 1977, the copyright will endure for 56 years. For works
published since 1978, the copyright extends throughout the life of the
author plus 50 years.
3. Are all published works subject to copyright laws? No. Works such as
government documents are under public domain. This means that you can use
them as you wish, but to help the reader locate these works and to show
professional courtesy to their authors, you should always cite the source.
4. Can I ever quote copyrighted works without securing permission? Yes.
Fair-use guidelines permit you to quote up to 300 words from a book. You
can also quote up to 10 percent of an article. But should you wish to quote
from a poem or song, be careful; the laws are more restrictive for these
works. Diagrams, charts, and photos also require permission, regardless how
small or how few you are using. Photos also require signed releases or
permission from each recognizable person. Children's photos require
signatures of the child's parent or guardian. At best, most of the
copyright laws are "fuzzy," leaving you the responsibility to use your own
judgment to determine what is honest and fair.
5. Does this mean that I should avoid using ideas and facts that I have
discovered in books and journals? No. Facts and ideas themselves are
not copyrighted. Many beginning authors limit themselves
unnecessarily because they are afraid to use ideas that they may have
read in a book, magazine, or other printed material.
For example, suppose you are writing about the water cycle: Rain turns into
runoff, which eventually evaporates, later condensing to form clouds, which
in turn condense to form rain. This is a well-known process, and you need
not quote any source or ask for permission to use it. But if you wish to
lift a description of the process verbatim from a book or magazine, this
would require permission.
You could also draw a graphic representation of the water cycle without
seeking permission, but if you want to copy an existing diagram, you will
need to seek permission.
6. To whom should I write for permission? First, notice who holds the
copyright. If you can tell that it is the publisher, write the publisher.
If it is the author, you still may need to write to the publisher to secure
the author's address
7. How Can I Gel My Works Copyrighted? There are three ways a writer can get
copyright protection. You could write the copyright office at:
Register of Copyrights
Library of Congress
Washington/ DC 20559 .
A second way to get copyright protection is just to put a small c inside a
circle, followed by the date on your new work.
Example: @ 1994 by Hilda Monza
A third way to get copyright protection is just to write down your ideas
and then do nothing. As soon as you put your ideas into writing, the
writing itself automatically becomes subject to copyright laws.