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Special Rules for Digital Materials

Rule of Thumb: You You can watch or listen for free; but making a copy to keep will cost you.

Students often confuse the Internet with the public domain. Donít make that mistake! You will be on safer ground if you think of the Internet as a large virtual library. Accessing materials online are similar to checking out materials from the library. You should treat digital materials using the following quidelines.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, " Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner's exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution…since any original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium (including a computer file) is protected by federal copyright law upon creation, in the absence of clear information to the contrary, most works may be assumed to be protected by federal copyright law."

In other words, downloading and saving text, graphic, audio, or video files is the same as making a copy. Under the principles of fair use, you can usually make one copy for your personal use for the duration of a class for educational purposes. Donít make more than one copy of digital materials without permission. Making and sharing copies for other people could be treated the same as making multiple copies of copyrighted materials without the author or publisherís permission.

Violation of copyright and citation rules in the case of digital materials could put you in violation not only of U.S. Copyright law but also the university acceptable network use policy. The U.S. Copyright Office recommends that consumers work through the many "authorized" services on the Internet that allow consumers to purchase copyrighted works online, whether music, ebooks, or motion pictures. By purchasing works through authorized services, consumers can avoid the risks of infringement liability and can limit their exposure to other potential risks, e.g., viruses, unexpected material, or spyware.

Need more information? Visit Guidelines for Using Materials or More Resources under Information for Faculty and Staff for more details.

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Remember that copyright is an area where there is still much ambiguity. Future legislation and court decisions will continue to shape copyright law. Information provided on this website should not be construed as legal advice.