Copyright laws are deliberately vague, ambiguous, and often misunderstood. These laws are interpreted on a case-by-case basis. Copyrights apply to the following types of works: poems, theses, literary works, plays, movies, dances, musical compositions, paintings, drawings, photographs, software, sound recordings... A copyright protects the expression of ideas not the ideas themselves. Copyright protection is available for both published and unpublished works for a limited period of time. The US signed the Borne Convention in 1988 giving copyright to authors without requiring them to register their work(s). However copyright registration is required for an author to sue and obtain damages in federal court. There are several basic rights protected by copyright laws such as; to reproduce the work; to import or export the work; to create derivative works; to distribute copies; to publicly perform the work and to publicly display the work...
The Fair Use Doctrine allows for the limited use of copyrighted materials without the permission of the rights holder. Fair Use is not a copyright infringement. Fair Use is determined by the following four factors: purpose and charter of the use; nature of the copyrighted material; amount and substantiality of the portion used and effect of the use upon the market potential
Most educational use of copyrighted materials falls under the Fair Use Doctrine. Note however that not every educational use is Fair Use. Non-profit and educational websites that reproduce whole articles from technical magazines are frequently found to infringe on copyrights. Both UT and individuals involved in copyright infringement may be sued for damages. Damages can be awarded in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Many legal scholars, politicians, copyright owners and users, and their lawyers agree that fair use is so hard to understand that it fails to provide effective guidance for the use of others’ works today. The UT System approach to this issue has been through the development of a set of Rules of Thumb for the Fair Use of copyrighted materials.
Note, however, that copying, modifying, displaying, performing, or distributing another’s work beyond the suggestions of the Rules of Thumb may still be a fair use more about the UT’s Fair Use Rules of Thumb.
UT System has established “Rules of Thumb” for the following uses of copyrighted works: Coursepacks, distance learning, image archives, multimedia works, music research copies and rerserves.
Within the context of this document we are primarily concerned with the copyright of image archives, research copies, and reserves. Rules of Thumb for Digitizing and Using Images for Educational Purposes
A Guest Editorial