How can I learn about UM's copyright policies and procedures related to campus captioning and media conversion?

This document is intended to serve as a guide for copyright policies and procedures for University of Montana faculty, staff and students.

1.  What is a copyright?

Copyright grants authors the following exclusive rights in their original works:

  • Copying the work;
  • Make derivative works of the work (one example is an adaptation of a book into a movie);
  • Sell, rent, lease or lend the work to the public;
  • Publicly perform the work;
  • Publicly display the work; and
  • Digitally transmit a sound recording of the work to the public.

This typically means that anyone other than the author wishing to do any of the above activities to a copyrighted work needs to ask the author for permission. 17 U.S.C. Sec. 106

2.  What works are protected by copyright?

Copyright protects original works of authorship that are expressed in a tangible medium of expression. Some examples are books, plays, films, sound recordings, art, songs, papers, photos, and other similar works.  For a complete list please have a look at this part of the actual copyright law: 17 U.S.C. Sec. 102.

It’s important to remember that ideas or thoughts cannot be copyrighted.  Your thoughts and ideas must be written down or captured in a tangible medium of expression.  For example, any thoughts or ideas you put onto paper, a recording device such as your smart phone, a camera, clay, or painting a voice recorder could be copyrighted.

3.  When are works protected by copyright?

An author immediately receives copyright protection when their work is captured in a tangible medium of expression.For instance, as soon as you draw an original doodle on a napkin, paint an original image on canvas, write an original work in a MS Word file, or create an original image in Photoshop, your work is automatically protected by copyright.17 U.S.C. Sec 102

4.  Do you need to register a work with the United States Copyright Office (USCO) to get copyright protection?

No.  An author immediately receives copyright protection when their work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression; for instance, when an author writes an original work in a MS Word file (Please see FAQ #3 for other examples).  However, registering your work with the USCO allows you to sue someone who infringes your copyrights and to possibly be awarded statutory damages and attorney’s fees as part of the outcome of an infringement suit. You should assume that a work is copyrighted unless it falls into the public domain.  (United States Copyright Office, Circular 1, pp. 4-5)

5.  Who gets copyright protection for their works?

In most instances, a copyright belongs to the person—or people--who created the work.  However, it is possible for copyrights to be transferred to others. 17 U.S.C. Sec. 201

6.  What is required to use a copyrighted work?

Individuals seeking to use a copyrighted work must receive written permission from the copyright holder, which often means paying for use.

7.  If a work doesn’t have a copyright notice (i.e. ©) may I use it without permission?

No. There is no requirement for an author to put a copyright notice on a work in order for it to be protected.Unless your use falls under very specific exceptions outlined within copyright law, you will still need permissions. (United States Copyright Office, Circular 1, p. 6)

8.  If I cite a work will I still need permission from the copyright holder to use it?

Yes. Regardless of whether or not you cite a work, unless your use falls under very specific exceptions outlined within copyright law you will still need permission to use it.  (United States Copyright Office, Circular 1, p. 6)

Citation of sources, attribution, or academic honesty/avoiding plagiarism, are ethical concepts rather than legal ones.Not citing sources can still have real world consequences such as failing a course or possibly getting fired from a job.

9.  Are there ways to use a copyrighted work without permission?

Yes.There are very specific exceptions to the exclusive rights of copyright holders contained within the law.Some of the more well-known ones are Fair Use, Classroom Exceptions, and Doctrine of First  Sale. You should read authoritative and reliable sources about each of these exceptions before applying them to your intended use.Such sources include: Stanford University Libraries' overview of fair use; Know Your Copyrights by the Association of Research Libraries which addresses classroom exceptions (in particular, see the Resources for Teaching Faculty); and a post about the doctrine of first sale by Maria Scheid at The Ohio State University Libraries’ Copyright Corner.

10.  I keep hearing about the “four factors” of fair use.  What are they?

The “four factors” constitute the legal test for determining whether a copyrighted work qualifies as fair use.The factors are:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work.
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
    (17 U.S.C. Sec. 107)

The Fair Use Checklist written by copyright scholars, Kenneth Crews and Dwayne Buttler, is a great resource.

11.  How long are works protected?

Most works created from 1978 through the present are protected by copyright for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years.The duration of protection varies for works created prior to 1978. The Abbreviated Public Domain Chart from the Mansfield Library can assist you in determining the length of protection for a work.

12.  Who should I talk to at UM about copyright issues?

Tammy Ravas

Associate Professor, Mansfield Library

Visual and Performing Arts Librarian and Media Coordinator

(406) 243-4402

Additional Resources

UM Student Conduct Code

UM Faculty Collective Bargaining Agreements


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Article ID: 67962
Thu 11/29/18 3:01 PM
Fri 12/21/18 1:13 PM

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Captioning is a verbatim rendering of the words, speech sounds and non-speech sounds that appear with the visual recording in synchronized fashion. Captioning makes it possible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to access audio information.