Other Campus Copyright Issues
Test Your Copyright Knowledge
What You Need To Know

When it comes to copyright, academic institutions must address a wide range of areas in addition to the reuse of educational text-based content. For example, is computer software being illegally used and copied in your institution? What are the legal implications of faculty, staff and students downloading music files? Who is responsible for unauthorized content on a student Web site?

The following are compliance guidelines for the use and distribution of many other types of copyrighted material:

Computer Software
When you purchase mass-market computer software, you usually acquire a license to use the software on the disc you have purchased or in the file you have downloaded. Under such a license, you typically only have the right to load it onto a single computer and to make another copy "for archival purposes only" or, in limited circumstances, for "purposes only of maintenance or repair." This means you may not use that software on more than one computer. It also means you may neither make nor distribute copies of it for any other reason without first obtaining permission from the copyright holder or its agent. Permission would include a license that allows you to make copies of the software beyond a single use (for instance, for use on several computers in your library). The license may also allow an individual to make a copy of the software on a home computer or a laptop; again, check the software license to determine if this is permitted.

For more information on copyright and computer software, please visit the Software and Information Industry Association.

Peer-to-Peer ("P2P") File Sharing
The issue of P2P file sharing is receiving increasing attention in the U.S. and around the world. P2P file sharing is not itself illegal. However, it is often used for unauthorized downloading and uploading of copyright-protected material such as music, movies, video games, computer software and photographs. Several courts have determined that substantial P2P file sharing of copyright-protected works generally does not fall within the fair use defense.

Students who engage in substantial P2P file sharing of copyright-protected materials may be subject to serious liability. Universities are under no obligation to accept responsibility for, or to help defend, the activities of students in illegal file sharing. In fact, many universities have issued policies and statements specifically disclaiming responsibility for illegal P2P file sharing.

It is possible that universities operating the computer networks over which P2P file sharing occurs may face claims of contributory or vicarious liability arising from the conduct of their students. There may be complex issues relating to your institution's knowledge of the conduct, contribution to it, ability to control it and direct financial benefit from it. The university community is working closely with copyright holders in several industries to clarify rights and responsibilities, educate students about illegal P2P activities and develop alternative solutions to illegal P2P file sharing.

For more information on copyright and peer-to-peer file sharing, please visit the Recording Industry Association of America.

Illegal Online Content
Universities and libraries whose computer systems or networks carry unauthorized copyright-protected materials (e.g., music downloaded from a P2P file sharing system or unauthorized photographs on a student Web site) may have limited liability if the university or library complies with the conditions in the DMCA. Note that students using illegal online content do not qualify for this limited liability.

In order to take advantage of the limited liability provisions for online service providers under the DMCA, your institution should:

  • Identify who should receive notification of copyright infringement claims and register this agent with the Copyright Office.
  • Develop or update copyright compliance policies as well as procedures for handling complaints of copyright infringement that occur on networks or servers which your institution controls. These policies should include a procedure for terminating the accounts of repeat alleged copyright infringers and should not interfere with measures by copyright owners to identify and protect their works. Such policies and procedures should be posted on your institution's Web site.
  • Develop and implement an educational program to ensure that faculty, staff, students and others in your institution understand copyright law and that you are promoting compliance with copyright law. Ensure that you have a team of people with some expertise in copyright law, as well as legal resources for further reference.

For more information on copyright and illegal online content, please consult the DMCA on the U.S. Copyright Office (pdf) Web site.

Content Use for Business Purposes
On campus, copyright compliance naturally focuses on the use of content for educational purposes. Yet in the normal course of daily operations, there are many instances where educational guidelines do not apply. Consider, for example, a staff member who copies a trade magazine article to share with colleagues, a marketing person who copies press articles for use in public relations or recruiting, or a faculty member who uses third-party materials in a non-academic presentation or speaking opportunity. In these cases, the fair use analysis will usually produce a different result from an educational (classroom-related) use and each user would need to obtain copyright permission from the copyright holder or its agent.

The Use of Student-Created Materials
The use of student-created materials by an institution or its faculty requires permission from the copyright holder—the student. Usage requiring consent includes the posting of student materials in a public location such as the Internet or a campus art gallery. Public posting of this nature may also be subject to state and/or federal privacy laws, as well as the academic institution's own student-protection policies. An example of an applicable federal statute is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act; many states and universities have built their own, sometimes more restrictive policies on top of the federal law.