The use of electronic resources for research as well as for writing, publishing, and creating graphics has blurred the line between plagiarism and copyright violation. In addition, computer software and the use of the Internet has made it very easy to simply grab an audio or video clip, cut and paste an image from a photo, and creatively mix and match graphics. You may want to do this to create a multimedia presentation or to enhance your homepage. Being able to do it easily, however, does not mean that you should. Your decision to do this may result in copyright infringement, which can result in legal action against you and a hefty fine. You need to understand what is and is not allowed according to law.
While the purpose of the research guide is to define plagiarism and to illustrate proper form for giving credit to others, it may be necessary to know just how much of someone else’s work you may use –and under what circumstances. What follows is a brief summary of what U.S. copyright law allows, what “fair use” guidelines are, and some quantity limits for different materials. For more detailed information, see references about copyright available in our Media center Resource Center and at educational institutions’ Web sites. Some examples are listed at the end of this section.
U.S. copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code, Section 16) gives five rights to the creators of intellectual property as long as it has been put down in concrete form, such as prose, poetry, graphic arts, music, video, etc. This law automatically protects any work created after January 1, 1978. These five rights are reproduction, adaptation, distribution, public performance, and public displays. The owner of these property rights may sell or license them to another as he/she wishes.
This copyright law has been amended by Congress to grant exceptions to these strict legal requirements to schools, students and certain other nonprofit entities. These exceptions have become known as “fair use guidelines.” Fair use of copyrighted material means that within certain limits, it is not copyright infringement if it is for purposes of criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research. In other words, under certain circumstances, others may use this intellectual property as long as they follow these guidelines.
To determine whether what you intend to use/copy violates these guidelines , four questions need to be asked:
(1) Is the use for nonprofit educational purposes only?
(2) What is the nature of the copyrighted work? Fiction or non-fiction?
(3) What portion of the whole is being copied?
(4) Will this result in the loss of income for the creator?
Several examples of appropriate and inappropriate uses are:
a. In the course of researching musical instruments, you print out an entire article about the trumpet from
Encarta to read later. This is considered personal use and is allowed. However, should you put your name on
the article or alter it and turn it in as your own work, you have not only plagiarized but also committed
a copyright violation.
b. You find an image you want to use in a collection of clip-art. Most clip-art is shareware or in the public domain;
so you are invited to use it. Just remember to give credit.
c. You are creating a multimedia project by combining text, audio and video for assignment. Follow “fair use”
and quantity guidelines, (listed below). State on your opening screen that copyrighted materials have been
used and that you have done so following the “fair use” guidelines. Give credit to your sources.
d. You make copies for yourself and for others who may also have worked on the project. All of this is permissible.
But should you decide to post this on a Web page, you have entered other territory and need more information
to protect yourself than space allows in this Guide.
In 1996, the Fair Use Guidelines for Multimedia were established and defined quantity limits on material teachers and
students may use:
Motion media (film, video, television): up to 10% or three minutes, whichever is less, of an individual program.
Text (prose, poetry, drama): Up to 10% or 1000 words, whichever is less. Short poems with fewer than 250 words may be used in their entirety.
Music, lyrics, and music video: Up to 10% but not more than 30 seconds from a single work.
Illustrations, cartoons, photography: No more than five images from a single artist or photographer.
Numerical data sets: Up to 10% or 2500 fields or cells, whichever is less, may be used from a database.
Remember, in all cases you must give credit to your source. You may also need to request permission
to use works from the creator and adhere to some time limits.
For further information, see:
Simpson, Carol Mann. Copyright for Schools: A Practical Guide. 2nd ed.
Worthington, OH: Linworth Publishing, 1997.
URL: http :// Iweb.capco.com/capcolQACopyright.html
The Copyright and Fair Use Website: URL: http://fairuse.stanford.edu
Example of university copyright statement for students