Permissions and Copyright




Because the electronic environment presents us with new media, and even calls into question the concept of works “fixed” in a “tangible medium,” a great many questions challenge the conventions of copyright doctrine. Congress and the courts are struggling to keep up with new technology, and the opinions of scholars and commentators on how the law should cope with these new changes are in lively conflict.

Nonetheless, certain principles endure. The first and most important is that there is copyright law in cyberspace. A work that is available electronically—even if it is available only electronically—is as eligible for copyright protection as a work in any other medium. Thus, the fact that you can download text or graphics does not mean that the material is not copyrighted. And the ability to download a copyrighted work does not mean that you are free to disseminate that work to others, either electronically or in hard copy.

Those who put their work on the Internet and wish to control its use should use the copyright designation, just as they would do in print or any other medium.

You should abide by the following principles when you access a database or other electronic source of information from your own computer.

You are free to read, watch or listen to any material to which you have authorized access, even if it is copyrighted. (In some cases you may have to pay a fee to do this.)
Because downloading material to your own computer necessarily makes an electronic copy of it (and because printing what you’ve downloaded makes another copy), a copyright owner is entitled to prohibit downloading and printing.
Remember that the site owner is not necessarily the copyright holder of the site’s content. A site owner may hold the copyright to some materials but not others, or to none of it. Requests for permission should be directed to the copyright holder, not necessarily the website owner.
Look for a copyright notice on the material. The notice may be on the opening screen, a home page, an “About this Program” screen, or at the beginning or end of individual items (such as an article or a graphic) within the database.
If you are in a commercial database that charges a fee for searching material, and also permits you to download or print the material through mouse or key-stroke commands, you may assume that the copyright owner has authorized the operator of the database to allow users to download and print. You may pay an additional fee for this privilege. Multiple copies for classroom use may require additional fees.

Copyright Infringement

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