Sun setting over King Library

Copyright

The U.S. Copyright Office provides the following definition of a copyright:

A Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
  • To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
  • In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

Copyright is most commonly associated with the production of written works such as books, articles, etc. However, copyright protection applies to many different types of creative works such as recorded music, photographs, artwork, etc.

Copyright protection is created instantaneously when a work is fixed in a tangible medium. Prior to the time that it is fixed in a tangible medium, copyright protection does not apply. In other words, the idea from which a work is created is not protected, but the actual work is protected.

Even though the copyright laws provide protection from the instant a work is created, it is often helpful to have a work filed with the United States Copyright Office which provides some additional protections to the author/artist to prevent infringement. 

Copyright has a myriad of impacts across the University. For example, everything from the use of copyrighted materials in classes, to the books in the library, to the artwork in the museum, to the use of pictures of campus, all have copyright implications. 

The University's policy on copyrights can be found at Section 15.6.B of the Miami University Policy and Information Manual. Generally, the University recognizes that a faculty member, staff member, or student owns his/her own work unless (1) the work was created pursuant to an external grant or contract, or specified in the terms of a gift, under which the copyrightable material was produced, or (2) if the work was created in the course of performing an explicit University assignment or commission to create such a work.

Copyright law can be very confusing due to the fact that there are numerous exceptions to copyright which are heavily fact-specific, such as the "fair use" exception. Moreover, people are often confused by the fact that a person may purchase an original work, but the copyright ownership still resides with the original author/artist. In this situation, each party only has certain rights with regard to the work. Accordingly, because of the complexity of these matters, please call our office to discuss any copyright concerns that you may have.

For More Information

For further information regarding copyright, see the references below: