Copyright Law & Fair Use
Copyright law exists to protect the creators of original works in any medium. Whether a writer, artist, musician, producer, or something else entirely, the holder of a copyright is protected from copying, distribution, or performance of his or her work without permission. This permission, when given, involves a license and often a fee. Use of a work without permission is copyright infringement and is punishable by civil and criminal penalties. Always remember that merely acknowledging or crediting the source of copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.
One possible means of using material without obtaining a copyright holder's permission is through "Fair Use." Fair Use - outlined in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 - states that, under certain conditions, a copyrighted work may be used without prior permission for, among other things, teaching, research, scholarship, and criticism. Besides the Fair Use defense, educators might qualify for an exemption to infringement under Section 110 of the Copyright Act. Distance educators should also take note of Section 112, which allows for the making of ephemeral copies of works authorized to be used under Section 110(2). The entire text of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 - and specifically Sections 107, 110, and 112 - can be viewed on the U.S. Copyright Office's Web site. The Copyright Office also discusses Fair Use in greater detail.
Note: The content on this website is provided for informational purposes only and may not be relied upon as legal advice. Please consult an attorney with expertise in copyright law for advice relating to your specific circumstances and activities.