Copyright Laws & Their Implications


1.  General Revision of the Copyright Law (1976) and Judicial Improvement Act of 1990

The copyright law gives copyright owners the sole right to reproduce all or part of the work, distribute copies, prepare new (derivative) versions of the work, and perform and display the work publicly.  Copyright protection governs "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression.  The law protects unpublished as well as published material.  It also introduces the concept of “Fair Use”, described below.

2.  Fair Use:  The fair use doctrine allows for the use of copyrighted work, including some reproduction of the work, without obtaining the copyright owner's permission, if certain conditions are met.  The factors to be considered 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 of the work used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use in question upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

See the FAQs Section for more on Fair Use

3. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998

The DMCA extends the concept of copyright to a digitally networked environment whereby electronically recorded materials can be readily disseminated.  This Act was intended to clarify the “Fair Use” concept as it applies to digital media.  This Act has four applicable components:

  1. It is illegal to circumvent a technical measure applied to control access to a copyright protected work.
  2. Monetary liability limits are established for online service providers (such as SEU) for copyright infringement as long as certain conditions are met.
  3. Copies of computer software may be made for purposes of repair or maintenance of a computer by the owner or legal lessee.
  4. Libraries may make digital copies of materials in their collections for the purpose of specified preservation activities.


4. The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act

The TEACH Act amends the Copyright Code to give accredited non-profit educational institutions the right to use portions of copyrighted works for online instruction without permission from the copyright owner as long as certain preconditions are satisfied.  Such usage must also include technical measures to control further dissemination of copyrighted materials beyond the intended educational users by said recipients.  Such expanded use is contingent upon the institution satisfying several requirements, one of which is to make efforts to inform its faculty and staff of copyright laws and their application. 

See the FAQs Section for more on the TEACH Act
See the Quick Use Checklist for a list of requirements