Copyright

 

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DefinitionUnited States CopyrightJapanese CopyrightRequesting PermissionFair UseGeneral Information

Additional information for audio and music (Synchro license). See http://www.music-law.com/publishing.html

Definition

Copyright is a right granted by the government to authors of works that can be published, such as writing, images, music, and video. These works are primarily the result of the intellect of the author, unlike material property, such as automobiles and houses, that exist in a physical form. Copyright is a legal right but intellectual property is a term often used in discussions because it recognizes that the work is a product of the intellect. Basically, copyright gives authors the right to control the copying of their work and it can be divided into five basic categories:

  • reproducing the copyrighted work;
  • preparing derivative works based upon the work;
  • distributing copies of the work to the public;
  • performing the copyrighted work publicly; and
  • displaying the copyrighted work publicly.

United States Copyright Laws

Copyright law in the United States is well defined and has within it the concept of fair use. Fair use allows copyrighted material to be used without permission under very limited circumstances. See the Fair Use section below for links to fair use guidelines. Like all laws, copyright law is dense and difficult to read. It is embodied in Title 17 of the United States Code but the truly intrepid may venture into Title 17 at Cornell's Legal Information Institute. The last major revision of the law was in 1998 with the enactment of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which dealt with digital materials and liability of online providers. Educase has a good DMCA Resource Page. The U.S. Copyright Office, a part of the Library of Congress, is charged with overseeing copyrights and issuing registrations as well as a summary of the DMCA. Although it is not necessary to register a copyright, you must register before you take any action in court.

Japanese Copyright Laws

Japan and the United States have their own copyright laws. The main difference between the two countries is that the United States has the concept of fair use, while Japan does not recognize fair use in quite the same way. Japanese copyright law is examined in a report by Nadine Rosevear, Guidelines for the Creation of Web Sites at Schools in Japan. Karl-Friedrich Lenz discusses reforms in August, 2003 in his blog and points out that students may use copies in their work, and companies may sue for damages of number of illegal copies multiplied by the profit from one copy.

How to Request Permission

In the United States, works created since 1978 are automatically granted copyright protection without the author having to file with the government or put a copyright notice on the work. If you don't see a notice that states that work on a web site is public domain, assume that the work is copyrighted. Contact the owner for permission to use the work in your web site. Yes, this means you need to get permission to use those cute little icons you see on others' pages. I've included some guidelines and a sample letter.

Fair Use

Although Title 17 of the United States Code has within it the concept of fair use in section 107, the guidelines are short and vague. As a result, fair use guidelines have been developed that were guided by both Title 17 and case law. (Case law results from the interpretation judges give the law when they have to decide court cases that are not directly addressed by the law.) The following links provide a fairly representative sample.

Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia (Consortium of College and University Media Centers [CCUMC])
This page is a nice summary of fair use guidelines that many organizations have accepted. Note that "fair use" is codified in law, but the specifics are open to interpretation.
Stanford University Libraries Copyright and Fair Use Information
A quite thorough reference on fair use.
Copyright and Image Management from the University of Texas System.
This site from the Office of General Counsel for the University of Texas System provides a good overview of copyright and fair use.
SDSU's copy of "Guidelines for Off-Air Recording of Broadcast Programming for Educational Purposes"
IN 1979, a congressional negotiating committee, consisting of representatives of education organizations, copyright proprietors, and creative guilds and unions, negotiated these guidelines.
When Copying Is Ok--The 'Fair Use' Rule - Nolo's Legal Encyclopedia

Fair Use in Japan

Fair use is more limited in Japan, but it appears that students have the right to use copyrighted work in their classwork. However, it's always polite to ask.

General Information

Title 17 at Cornell's Legal Information Institute
Title 17 is the United States Law regarding copyright and the copy at Cornell is searchable, unlike the one available from the U.S. Copyright Offce.
U.S. Copyright Office Home Page
The U.S. Copyright Office should be one of your first stops when studying U.S. copyright law.
ThinkQuest Award Winning Site
Developed by kids for kids
Japanese Copyright Law (in English)
The date is November 2002, so this may not contain the most recent changes.
Japanese Copyright Law (in Japanese)
This provides links to some of the newest revisions.
DMCA Resource Page
Educase provides an overview of the changes incorporated in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Note that the changes of the DMCA are embedded in Title 17.
The Copyright Website
Benedict O’Mahoney's website provides a variety of information, including cases and issues directly affecting the Internet.
Ocean State Lawyers for the Arts
The Ocean State Lawyers for the Arts site looks at the issues from another angle as it is designed for those who need intellectual property protection rather than those who use intellectual property.
10 Big Myths about copyright explained
Brad Templeton explains the ten big myths that many cyber surfers believe.
BitLaw Copyright
BitLaw gives a rather detailed summary of copyright law and discusses how it applies in technology.
ICONnect: Online Courses: Copyright Issues (Lesson2)
This is a brief summary targeted at teachers.

Last maintained 02/01/2004

   

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Original Content ©2001-2004 by Derrel Fincher. Other rights reserved by individual authors