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Copyright and Fair Use: Copyright Law


The purpose of this site is to provide faculty, staff, and students at ERAU- Prescott Campus with an understanding of copyright law and fair use. While copyright issues can be complex, everyone needs to understand the basics. Failure to comply with copyright law can lead to substantial legal penalties.

This site also includes copyright and fair use compliance guidelines for faculty.

Copyright symbol

What Does Copyright Protect

Copyright grants authors the exclusive rights to:

  • make copies
  • sell or otherwise distribute their work
  • create new works (derivatives) based upon their work
  • perform or display their work in public
Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §106 (2000)

What Cannot be Copyrighted

  • Ideas, procedures, methods
  • Facts
  • Titles, names, slogans, listing of ingredients, or colors
  • Works that are not in a fixed medium, e.g., an extemporaneous speech
  • Federal Government publications
  • Common knowledge

Copyright Law Defined

“Congress shall have the power to . . . promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, 1790

That is the definition of copyright law as outlined in the U.S. Constitution.  Copyright applies both to traditional media (books, records, etc.) and to digital media (electronic journals, web sites, etc.).

Copyright is established the moment an idea is put into a fixed medium.  Copyright does not require registration or the display of the copyright symbol to exist.

Copyright protects the following:

  1. Literature
  2. Music
  3. Art
  4. Drama
  5. Other intellectual work:
    • pantomimes and choreographic works
    • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
    • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
    • sound recordings
    • architectural works

Ownership of a copyrighted work includes the right to control the use of that work. In other words, it gives creators a limited monopoly over their works, encouraging them to create new works while also creating a public domain of ideas, knowledge, and information upon which society can build. Use of such work by others during the term of the copyright requires either permission from the author or reliance on the doctrine of fair use. Failure to do one or the other will expose the user to a claim of copyright infringement for which the law provides remedies including payment of money damages to the copyright owner.