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Copyright and Fair Use: Introduction

Overview of fair use, DMCA, TEACH Act, and recent court decisions


Winthrop University Copyright Policy

The Winthrop University Copyright Policy was revised by a committee of faculty and administrators in the 2005-2006 academic year and was approved August 9, 2006 by the Executive Officers of Winthrop University. It replaces the policy passed by the Board in 1991. 

For the convenience of members of the Winthrop community, we have provided detailed explanations of the policy and its implications for faculty, students, staff, and campus organizations. Since we are not lawyers, these interpretations are not meant to be legally binding, but rather guidelines provided to help you understand the law and follow Winthrop's policy. We've also provided links to other informational sites to help you deal with this very complex issue.

If you have specific questions about the policy, questions to add to the "FAQs" list, or notice a broken link, please contact Mark Herring, Dean of Library Services, at 803-323-2232 or e-mail him at Either Dean Herring or a member of the Copyright Committee will address your concern promptly.

Copyright Takeaways

  • Copyright is a mystery wrapped in a shroud in the cover of an enigma
  • Interpretations vary according to the risk-aversion of the individual/institution
  • Fair Use for faculty does NOT mean, “I’m a professor so it’s fair use.”
  • Fair use is governed by section 107, 108 of the 1976 Copyright Law
  • Four principles, benchmarks, guidelines, or standards govern copyright: spontaneity, brevity, cumulative effect and profitability
  • The benchmarks or guidelines must ALL be present at once, not 3 of 4, 1 of 4, but 4 of 4.
  • Using Blackboard without regard to copyright is a quick way to infringement
  • The best way to use Blackboard is to link through the library’s website
  • Music copyright is even more draconian than print copyright
  • The web is also copyright protected
  • Orphan works are also copyright protected but are not easily discoverable
  • The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) came about to protect copyright on the Web
  • The TEACH Act was written to make it easier to provide online materials for distance education students
  • Takedown notices should not be taken lightly but taken down immediately
  • You can infringe copyright on your own materials if you do not hold the copyright (i.e. your publisher holds copyright)
  • The Google Book Decision may change everything with respect to copyright
  • The Google Book Decision is not an unqualified good with respect to intellectual property