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Copyright Basics  

An overview of basic information about U.S. Copyright Law for Gallaudet University students, faculty, and staff.
Last Updated: Jun 2, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright

1. I'd like to borrow the Library's DVD Audism Unveiled to show to my class. Is that permissible?

Yes. The Library does not purchase DVDs with public performance rights, but the law allows "performance" of DVDs for educational purposes in classrooms.

2. I'd like to have a movie night for my dorm floor and show something fun like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. May I borrow the Library's copy of the DVD and show that to the residents on my floor?

Unfortunately no. When someone buys a DVD he is, technically, paying for the right to view the performance(s) recorded on the DVD. Most DVDs are sold with a license that allows the purchaser to view the video at home, usually in private. The license covers home viewing but does NOT include "public performance" rights. 

3. OK, so I can't show a fun movie to my floor. Could I borrow Audism Unveiled and show it on my floor?

No again. The law is pretty clear -- the exception only applies to "performances" in real classrooms.

4. I'm teaching an online course this semester and the film The Legend of Bagger Vance will be required viewing for my students. May I stream the film on my Blackboard course page?

No. The law doesn't specify exactly how much of a film may be streamed, but it's very clear that streaming an entire film is not permitted.

5. My marketing class is studying branding, and I'd like to post an iconic brand image on my Blackboard course page. May I?

Another no here. Images are protected by copyright, and many companies are especially protective of their brands. You may create a link to an official version of the image, or you could request permission from the company to post it.

6. I have an old photocopy of an article from The journal of old stuff. The article isn't available electronically, and the journal isn't even published any more. May I scan it and post it on my course page for my students to read?

No. But the Library will be happy to seek permission to reproduce the article and scan it for you. More information about this service is available on the library's web site.

7. I'm doing a class presentation on the portrayal of deaf people in mainstream television and would like to create a short video montage of clips from TV shows. Is that OK?

Yes! As long as the clips are very brief this is permissible.

8. This weekend the History Channel is airing a documentary on Rosa Parks that I would like my students to see. May I record the telecast and show the recording to my students? Or can Gallaudet Video Services record it for me?

Yes, with some limitations. The law allows for off-air recording, but the recording may not be kept indefinitely. Specific guidelines apply to the use of off-air recordings. They may be shown once, and that one showing must be in a classroom. They may be shown once more only if "instructional reinformcement" is necessary, and again must be shown in a classroom. Both showings must occur within the first ten days after the recording was made. The instructor may view the recording as many times as necessary. After 45 days the recording must be destroyed.

9. I'm writing a book/producing a film/writing a poem and I want to be sure it is copyrighted. How do I do that?

There are really two answers to this question. Once a work is in a "fixed medium" (meaning you've recorded it in some way) it can be copyrighted. You should add a copyright notice to it ("copyright October 28, 2011 by David Freese") to the document/video. You may choose to register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. A fee is required to register a copyright, and it will take some time. See the Copyright Office web site for more information, especially the information found under the heading "How to Register a Work."


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