Intellectual Property Guide - Fort Wayne

How are Copyrights used?

Copyrights protect the authors of original content. Copyrights are fixed in duration but may be renewed. 

Texts, plays, movies, songs, recordings are obvious choices to copyright. Other creations include:

  • Architectural blueprints
  • Software applications (complete programs)

Federal Copyright

Do I need to register my copyright? 
  • Authors may claim copyright without formal registration. Simply add a copyright statement to your work.
What is Public Domain?
  • Public domain works never had a copyright, the copyright expired, or ...
  • READ MORE ABOUT PUBLIC DOMAIN from Rich Stim, Stanford University Libraries
If there is no copyright statement can I reproduce the work?
  • This is covered under Public Domain. Traditional Cultural Expressions (such as totem symbols or folk songs) may carry other restrictions.
  • READ MORE ABOUT TCEs from the World Intellectual Property Organization
What is Open Access?
What is considered plagiarism?
  • Plagiarism is presenting someone else's work as your own, even unintentionally. This has serious academic and professional consequences for students and teachers, including dismissal and revocation of conferred degrees.
  • READ MORE ABOUT PLAGIARISM on our Library Information Guide
What is Fair Use?
  • Fair Use is an interpretation of copyright law, to allow for freedom of expression. It is an evolving doctrine based on case law.

Educational Fair Use FAQ

READ ABOUT EDUCATIONAL FAIR USE on this Guide from Stanford University Libraries.

Can I scan or copy the library copy of my textbook? Maybe. 

  • A student may scan or copy a small portion of a textbook or assigned reading for personal use at any one time. The legal precedent is 10% or one chapter. This statement is not a license to do so.
  • Professors, following Fair Use, may make one-time copies from a work for their students. This statement is not a license to do so.
  • NOTE: many vendors are making exceptional allowances to support online learning during COVID-19
  • Professors may provide links to eBooks, articles, videos, and audio recordings in the databases that the library subscribes to. Students must use their personal log in to access the material, for example through IvyLearn or a database.

Can the library email me a copy of the textbook chapter I need to read? No, this is not considered Fair Use. Users must make their own copies for personal use.

Will the librarians tell me if I am not within Fair Use? Only if you ask, and what we say is not binding. Legal precedent says it is the responsibility of each user to observe the law, and the library is required to post this notice at our copying stations. Library staff may remind users of their responsibility, but it is not required that we warn users about possible infringement. Any prosecution for infringing copyright or other legal rights using our materials and copiers need not involve the library or library staff.

Creative Commons Copyrights

The Creative Commons copyrights were developed to create a "free, easy-to-use ... simple and standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work - on conditions of your choice" ( They apply to any kind of work: text, image, audio, software, hardware.

There are three elements to consider:

  • attribution - do you wish to be given credit as the originator? BY means yes.
  • alteration - may others revise or remix your original work? This is called a derivative. ND means no.
  • distribution - may others make and share copies of your work? For profit? NC means no. Must they "share-alike"? SA means yes.

By using a CC license, you are making a copyright claim. The licenses are listed here from most open to most restricted:

CC BY users give you credit, can alter your work, can redistribute your work for profit commercially

CC BY ND users give you credit, cannot alter your work, can redistribute your work for profit commercially

CC BY NC users give you credit, can alter your work, can redistribute your work only non-commercially

CC BY SA users give you credit, can alter your work, can redistribute your work for profit commercially, must license it just as you have

CC BY NC SA users give you credit, can alter your work, can redistribute your work only non-commercially, must license it just as you have

CC BY NC ND users give you credit, cannot alter your work, can redistribute it only non-commercially

Many teachers use the CC BY NC SA license, which allows their colleagues and students to revise and redistribute their original work for teaching and learning while giving them credit. It does not allow colleagues to publish their revised work commercially without permission. 

The Free Software Foundation's copyleft is close to the CC BY SA license. 

Click on this link to learn more about Creative Commons licenses.

Copyleft: The General Public License

The concept of copyleft was created with software in mind and is maintained by the Free Software Foundation. It requires that creators first copyright their work, and then add specific language that gives users rights under a General Public License. The work is not free as in no-cost. The quick guide to the GPL explains:

"There are four freedoms that every user should have: the freedom to use software for any purpose, the freedom to change the software to suit your needs, the freedom to share the software with your friends and neighbors, and the freedom to share the changes you make. When a program offers users all of these freedoms, we call it free software." 

Click on this link to learn more about Free Software, the General Public License, and other software licenses.