Why should you care about copyright?
  1. As a user of information, you need to know your legal responsibilities
  2. As a creator of information, you need to know your rights
Imagine you wrote a well-researched paper for a class. You received an A. You posted it on your Web site for your parents to read to prove that they didn't waste their money on your college education. You later decide to go to graduate school and pursue the same line of research. In your literature search for your master's thesis, you find that someone else modified your paper and then published it as their own. How do you feel?

Copyright laws give creators of original works (literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and other intellectual works) certain exclusive rights. These rights help ensure that creators of works get the credit and profit their works generate. These exclusive rights are:

  1. to reproduce or distribute copies
  2. to prepare derivative works or creations based on the original work
  3. to perform or display the work creatively

As a user of these original works, you need to obtain the creator/author's permission for these rights. "It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright." (U.S. Copyright Office

Fortunately for you, there are exceptions -- works in the Public Domain (see below) and uses governed by Fair Use principles (see below).

Digital media and the Internet have made copyright violations more prevalent because it is so easy to reproduce and distribute materials. That does not, however, make it ethical or legal.

Intellectual Property

from: The Copyright Site:

Intellectual property refers to unique and unobvious products of the human mind such as ideas, inventions, writings, speeches, names, industrial processes and the like. U.S. laws define four types of intellectual property: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Intellectual property is like any other kind of property in that it can be bought or sold, and like any other type of property, the owner has the right to control how it’s used. The main difference between intellectual property and “real” property is that it is intangible. In order to be protected, it must be expressed in some tangible form.
The concept of Intellectual Property is very important in the academic setting. Faculty researchers are concerned with their intellectual property rights (do they retain those rights when they leave the university? or, does what they create while being paid by the university belong to the university?), and students have intellectual property rights as well.

2010-2013 Copyright Old Dominion University -- ODU Libraries, updated September 2013