The Internet puts a nearly immeasurable amount of information and images within the reach of anyone who has access to a computer. Every day, people share with others things they have found on the Internet, often without acknowledging the person or entity that created these items. Unlike books, video recordings, or musical cd's, all of which usually have a copyright notice clearly visible, items generated electronically appear to be free for the taking. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. The information contained in these pages will assist you in navigating the sometimes murky waters of copyright.

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What is Copyright?

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.

FACT #1 Copyright laws apply to written works including:

  • literature and software
  • music and lyrics
  • screenplays, pantomine and choreography
  • pictures, graphics (including maps) and sculpture
  • motion picture and audio/visual productions (including podcasts)
  • sound recordings
  • architecture

FACT #2 If a work lacks a © symbol or copyright notice, it does not mean you can use it freely. Copyright applies to a work as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form. A person does not have to be registered with the US Copyright Office for infringement action to be taken.


FACT #3 Acknowledging the source of a copyrighted material is not a substitute for obtaining permission.


FACT #4 Only the copyright owner has the exclusive rights to reproduce or display publicly their work. Only they can give permission for others to do the same.


FACT #5 There are cases where it is permitted to “borrow” materials without obtaining the copyright holder’s permission. This is called fair use.

Whom to Contact on Campus

For General Copyright Questions
Pam O'Sullivan
Drake 113
(585) 395-5688
For Compliance Issues (eg Letters, etc.)
Robert Cushman, Associate Provost for Library, Information and Technology Services
216 Allen Administration
(585) 395-5470


© 2009

Last Updated 7/1/20

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