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Arkansas State University

Copyright: Copyright Basics

This guide is intended to give you basic information about copyright.

Copyright basics

As students and faculty, you are often faced with issues concerning the use of materials created by others.  This includes materials for the classroom, Blackboard and even your research papers. The Copyright Law is designed to protect the rights of the original author or creator. However, the law, written into the U.S. Constitution, also allowed the continued flow of news, information, education and criticism. But it is not always easy to make sense of what you can and cannot use. In what cases can you use copyrighted material without asking permission? And in what cases, must you seek permission?

This guide is a collection of resources to assist you with these questions.

What is copyright?

Copyright protects orginal works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works. It is the expression of the work not the idea or concept that is protected by copyright. In addition, this protection covers both published and unpublished works. (A book would be a published work while a personal diary would be an unpublished work, along with manuscripts or drafts of papers.)

Copyright protection exists from the moment a work is fixed in a tangible form of expression. (This could include a DVD, CD, even a napkin with writing on it).

  Copyright is the right granted by law to an author or creator to control the use of the work created. This allows the owner of the copyrighted material to:

  •  Make copies
  •  Distribute copies (including using the internet)
  •  Prepare derivatives versions based on the original work (Harry Potter series)
  •  Perform the work publicly
  •  Display the work publicly

  What is protected?

    Under the copyright act, section 102, the following is protected:

  • Literature
  • Music and lyrics
  • Drama
  • Pantomime and dance
  • Pictures, graphics, sculpture
  • Films
  • Sound recordings
  • Architecture
  • Software

  What is a "copy"?

    A copy is the reproduction of an original work, here are some examples of what would be considered a "copy":

  • A photocopy of a printed work
  • A video recording of a broadcast televison show
  • A song burned onto a CD or downloaded to a device (IPod or Mp3 player)
  • A scan of a printed work or image
  • A duplicate or backup of a software program burned to a DVD/CD or stored on a jump drive


Is linking copying?

Linking to an image or public website is not copying.  Linking to an online web page, image or document is just leading the viewer to that available resource. While you should still cite and give attribution to the owner of the website, it is not usually required to request permission to link to a publicly available website.