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Copyright Guidelines @ Columbus State University

Content added by CSU Librarians

The creation and use of intellectual property is an important part of Columbus State University's academic mission. It is imperative that students, faculty and staff respect the legal guidelines for creating and using intellectual property in the United States.

The FAQ below provides information to assist in the legal and ethical use of intellectual property at Columbus State University.

Because every situation is unique, it is stressed that CSU students, faculty and staff become familiar with copyright information, issues, guidelines and resources as they will need to use their own best judgment in determining what falls within the boundaries of the legal use of intellectual property in particular contexts.

Frequently Asked Questions

General Copyright Information

What Is Copyright?

What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.

How do I know whether a work is protected under copyright?

Publication is no longer the key to obtaining federal copyright. When a work is "fixed in a tangible form of expression," it is protected underneath the U.S. Copyright Law. This also means that the use of a copyright notice is no longer required for protected works.

What Works Are Protected Under U.S. Copyright Law?

What Works Are Protected Under Copyright? 

Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device. Copyrightable works include the following categories:

  • literary works
  • musical works, including any accompanying works
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

What Works Are Not Under Copyright Protection?

What works are NOT protected underneath the U.S. Copyright Law?

Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others:

  • Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded)
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources.)

What are my rights as a copyright holder?

Rights of Copyright Holders

Section 106 of the U.S. Copyright Law defines the limited exclusive rights of the copyright holder as being the ability to:

  1. Reproduce the copyrighted work in copies of phonorecords;
  2. Prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
  3. Distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending;
  4. In case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;
  5. In the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and
  6. In the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

Copyright Limitations

Are there any limitations to copyright?

Yes, in order to balance the rights of the copyright holder with the rights of humankind to use original works to enhance scholarship and creative activity in the United States, there are certain limitations to copyright. These are:

Public Domain

Public Domain

There are several categories that fall within the purview of Public Domain. These are:

What is in Public Domain is very complex, however. For example, works that are expired in the US may still be under copyright in other countries. It is stressed that without a comprehensive search of the publication history of a work and the history of copyright for the format (for example, scores, musical recordings and printed works may legally define Public Domain differently), it should not be assumed that a work is in the Public Domain. Cornell University provides a good resource that outlines the dates, inclusions and exceptions of the Public Domain in the United States.

Fair Use

Fair Use

The Fair Use Doctrine limits the exclusive rights defined in Section 106 of the U.S. Copyright Act and supports the use of copyrighted works in scholarship, teaching and learning.

Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act outlines four factors to be considered when deciding when Fair Use applies. These four factors are:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; AND
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

It is important to note that the Fair Use Doctrine applies to both print and digital content. Fair Use must therefore be considered when posting excerpts of copyrighted works in CougarView, CSU's course management system. For more information, please see the section about the TEACH Act.

One helpful way to determine whether a use of copyrighted works falls under Fair Use is to use the Fair Use Checklist , which was developed by the Copyright Advisory Office at Columbia University Libraries.

Another good source of information about Fair Use is the Four Factor Test provided by the University of Washington.

Section 101 of the U.S. Copyright Law

Section 110(1) of the U.S. Copyright Law: Exemption of Certain Performances and Displays

Section 110(1) of the U.S. Copyright Law states that:

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:

(1) performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made;


TEACH Act (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act, 2002)

The TEACH Act permits instructors to perform or display copyrighted works for distance education purposes. It allows transmission of digital resources to distance learning students and approves electronic storage of copyrighted content for brief periods of time. The TEACH Act also allows instructors to create digital versions of print works.

What types of materials are affected by the TEACH Act?

All types of digitized, copyrighted materials are affected by the TEACH Act, regardless of what format in which they were originally published.

What does the TEACH Act require of instructors and institutions when displaying copyrighted works during online instruction?

Instructors must inform students that the materials are copyrighted and cannot be redistributed, copied or revised. Instructors must also inform students not to save copyrighted materials on their computers.

Institutions must ensure that copyrighted materials can only be accessed by the instructor, enrolled students and administrators. Institutions must also require that students use login credentials to access copyrighted materials online.

What is prohibited under the TEACH Act?

TEACH Act Resource

How Long Does Copyright Last?

How Long Does Copyright Last?

A work that was created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author's life plus an additional 70 years after the author's death. In the case of “a joint work prepared by two or more authors who did not work for hire,” the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author's death. For works made for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author's identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright will be 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.

Works that were created before 1979 have been automatically brought under the statute and are now given federal copyright protection. The duration of copyright in these works is generally computed in the same way as for works created on or after January 1, 1978: the life-plus-70 or 95/120-year terms apply to them as well.

What Is Copyright Infringement and How Do I find the owner of a copyright?

What is copyright infringement?

It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the exclusive rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright. These rights, however, are not unlimited in scope.

How can I find out who owns the copyright for particular works?

For works published before January 1, 1978, you may access copyright ownership information two ways.

  • You may search the copyright card catalog which is located on the fourth floor (LM-404) of the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress. The public can use the catalog, which is staffed by a Copyright Office employee, between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm, Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, except federal holidays.
  • Copyright Office staff can search copyright records for you. Upon payment of an hourly fee, the Office will conduct a search and provide a factual, noninterpretive report. To initiate a search, consult the bibliographer on duty when you visit the Office, complete the form available at, or contact the Office at:
    • Library of Congress
      Copyright Office
      Records Research and Certification Section
      101 Independence Avenue SE
      Washington, DC 20559-6300
      fax: (202) 252-3485
      tel: (202) 707-6850

For works published after January 1, 1978, you may search the copyright online catalog. This online catalog includes records of registered books, music, art, and periodicals, and other works. It also includes copyright ownership documents.

For more information, please see Circular 22 (PDF)How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work.

How can I obtain permission to use a copyrighted work?

The usual method of obtaining permission to use a copyrighted work is to simply ask the creator. If you do not know who the creator of a work is, the U.S. Copyright Office provides a searchable database that contains the copyright records from 1978 to the present.

The Copyright Clearance Center also provides services for obtaining permission to use copyrighted works for a fee.

Copyright Resources

Copyright Resources

University System of Georgia Policy on the Use of Copyrighted Works in Education and Research

Columbus State University adheres to the USG Policy on the Use of Copyrighted Works in Education and Research. This policy provides faculty, employees, and students of the University System of Georgia with a basic understanding of copyright and fair use.

Additional Resources

Copyright Guides On Selected Topics (CSU Only)