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:
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
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
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
- 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.