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Resources for Faculty: Copyright

This guide is intended to assist faculty and staff in using the library's resources and services.

Copyright Information

In compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) enacted in 1998, Mercyhurst University hereby notifies all students that it is illegal to download, copy, use, or share copyrighted digital information files, including but not limited to music and movies, without permission. Such activities could result in criminal or Mercyhurst Student Conduct actions.

Mercyhurst University promotes and expects compliance with Copyright laws of all students, faculty, and staff. The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, a photocopy or other reproduction of a copyrighted work may be made under certain conditions. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research". If a user uses a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement. Further information on Mercyhurst university’s policy, including penalties for infringement, may be found in the Code of Conduct for Use of Information Technology.

Mercyhurst encourages students to learn more about the provisions of the DMCA and how they apply to use of the campus network. You can check this page to help determine whether or not use of copyrighted materials falls under the “fair use” provisions. This page is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal opinion.

Darci Jones,  Copyright Officer, Mercyhurst University


Recent additions to Copyright such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Copyright Term Extension Act have further complicated these issues. Information is provided below to help students and faculty determine whether or not their use of copyrighted materials falls under the “fair use” provisions. This page is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal opinion. Links to additional resources appear throughout.


What is copyright?

Copyright exists to protect the rights of authors, artists, composers, software developers, and other creators of original works. It grants the copyright owner exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, display, or perform the work or produce other works derived from the original. The copyright owner is the only one who can grant permission to others to do the same.

Copyright may be applied to any work of authorship, i.e. literary, musical, visual, dramatic, and other intellectual works regardless of format. Although many copyrighted works do, a work does not have to include a copyright statement to be eligible for copyright protection. Not everything can be copyrighted. Facts are not eligible for copyright protection, nor are works produced by the federal government. It is usually best to err on the side of caution and assume a work is copyrighted.

U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright and Intellectual Property - from the Association of Research Libraries


Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was enacted in 1998, is targeted at the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works in the new digital age. The law is very specific about what is and is not allowed, particularly regarding sharing of audio and video files over the Internet. Furthermore, there are clear expectations about what an online service provider must do to ensure that users of the service adhere to the law. As an online service provider, Mercyhurst University has taken steps to comply with the law. Please see the university's Code of Conduct for Use of Information Technology.


Fair Use

There are times when a copyrighted work may be used for personal or educational purposes without obtaining permission. There are, however, limits to what is considered "fair use." These limits apply to materials used in the classroom as well as library reserves and items posted on BlackBoard. Being able to use material without permission does not mean being able to use it without attribution. In accordance with Mercyhurst University's policy on academic honesty, proper citations should be used when appropriate.

CONFU - Conference on Fair Use

Copyright and Fair Use - from Stanford University


Public Domain

Copyright protection does not last forever. Once copyright expires, a work may be used without permission. Congress has repeatedly, however, lengthened the period for which a work is eligible for copyright protection. The most recent legislation was the Copyright Term Extension Act, also known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. This bill passed in 1998 and extended the copyright term for most protected works to the life of the author plus 70 years. Be warned that the passing of an original edition of a work into the public domain does not mean that later editions or translations are not protected.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the U.S. - from Cornell University


Public Performance

Most video recordings, audio recordings, and dramatic works and many musical works are intended for personal use. Performance rights must be obtained before these works can be performed in public for larger groups.



Obtaining Permission to Use a Copyrighted Work

If your use of copyrighted works goes beyond the limits of fair use, you need to request permission from the copyright owner. The Copyright Clearance Center can obtain permission on your behalf for a fee. Keep in mind that the copyright owner is not always the author. In many instances, the author's employer or scholarly journal publisher actually owns the copyright.

More Copyright Information

For more copyright information, including topics like:

  • Photocopying in the classroom
  • Educational Use
  • Fair Use
  • Library Reserves
  • The T.E.A.C.H Act
  • Orphan Works
  • Faculty Requesting Permissions
  • and more...

click HERE.