Federal copyright law (17 U.S.C. sections 101-914) grants certain exclusive rights to creators of original works. Many of the people who use the Archives have two misconceptions:
CWRU's archivists are not lawyers so we are not pretending to give legal advice. Nevertheless, most of our users seem unaware of how copyright applies to use of materials in the Archives. We hope this introduction clarifies what can be a very confusing issue. We are only addressing copyright as it applies to materials in the Archives, not to the universe of information. URLs and references to more general explanations of copyright appear at the end of this document.
The work must be original and fixed in some tangible medium. Tangible media include paper, film, audio and video tape, computer hard drives, CDs, or any other material on which a work could be recorded. Original isn't a synonym for creative or unique, but means the work must be new in the sense of not copied from something else. A photograph taken at an alumni reunion, a letter from a parent to the Dean of Adelbert College, and the University's annual report are all examples of original works eligible for copyright protection. Copyright protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. There may, for example, be several photographs of that alumni reunion, that look very similar but were taken by different photographers. Even though not unique, each photograph is a distinct expression and each is eligible for copyright protection. Ideas, names, titles, slogans, short phrases, or facts are not eligible for copyright protection. Some slogans, names, or phrases may, however, be protected by trademark laws. Copyright protection does not last indefinitely. The duration varies depending on when the work was created, who created it, and whether it was published. See Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States for a summary. Works also lose protection, entering the public domain, because registration and notification requirements in place before 1989 were not met, or because owners relinquish their rights. Also in the public domain are works not eligible for protection because, for example, they fail the originality test.
Generally the person who created the work, its author, owns the copyright. People who are not authors can also own copyrights. Heirs of deceased authors can inherit copyrights, just like any other personal property. Copyright owners can transfer some or all of their rights in a work to one or more other parties. If the author created the work as an employee acting within the scope of his or her employment, the employer probably owns the copyright. In short, you can't tell by looking at a work, who owns its copyright.
Copyright owners have the exclusive right to:
A number of limitations to the exclusive rights of copyright owners are granted for purposes such as distance learning, preservation by libraries and archives, backup copies of software. Otherwise, if you wish to exercise one of the copyright owners' exclusive rights, you must have the owner's permission, unless your use qualifies as "Fair Use."
There are four factors to consider to determine if your use of copyrighted material qualifies as fair use. The balance of all four, rather than any one, determines fair use. (Working for a university in and of itself does not qualify every use of copyrighted material as fair use.)
|Purpose of the Use||Purposes supporting claims of fair use are criticism, commentary, parody, newsreporting, personal, educational.
|Nature of the Work Used||Characteristics of works supporting claims of fair use are factual, scholarly, published. Characteristics of works weakening claims of fair use are fiction, artistic, audiovisual, unpublished.
|Amount of the Work Used||Supporting claims of fair use are small proportions and non-essential parts of the work. Weakening claims of fair use are large proportions and the essence of the work.
|Effect of the Use on the Market for or Value of the Work Used||Supporting claims of fair use are out-of-print works, unidentifiable copyright owner. Weakening claims of fair use are copies available for purchase or license.
If you plan to reproduce, distribute, prepare a derivative work, or publicly perform or display a copyrighted work, it is your responsibility to determine if it is a fair use. If it is not, it is your responsibility to identify the copyright owner and secure permission. Below are a few rules of thumb that might help you determine if works in the Archives are protected by copyright and, if so, who is the likely copyright owner.
Below are some broad categories of material in the University Archives and some general guidelines about their copyright status.
Unpublished materials, such as memoranda, letters, reports, photographs, created by Case Western Reserve University employees as part of their job responsibilities are protected for 120 years from the date of creation. That is, on 1/1/2008 copyright to these documents written before 1888 expired. Copyright to those written during or after 1888 is owned by Case Western Reserve University.
Unpublished materials, such as memoranda, letters, reports, photographs created by individuals who were not Case employees are protected for 70 years after the death of the author. That is, on 1/1/2008 copyright to these documents written by people who died before 1938 expired. Copyright to these documents that have not expired are owned by the authors or their heirs or assignees. The fact that Case Western Reserve University owns the documents, does not mean Case owns the copyright.
Copyright to works produced for Case by outside consultants under contract is owned by the consultant unless assigned to Case by the contract. If the work is unpublished and is of corporate authorship (e.g., a consulting firm), it is protected for 120 years from the date of creation. If the work is unpublished and of individual authorship, it is protected for 70 years after the death of the author.
Anonymous unpublished works are protected for 120 years from the date of creation. (Many of the photographs in the Archives are in this category.)
University publications (i.e., those published by Western Reserve University, Case Institute of Technology, and Case Western Reserve University):
Center for Intellectual Property. University of Maryland University College
When Works Pass Into the Public Domain
United States Copyright Office. Library of Congress
Crash Course in Copyright
University of Texas
Copyright Management Center
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis
Office of General Counsel. The Catholic University of America
Kelvin Smith Library
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