Tech Tour #9: Copyright Law, IT and You

Image of Scrappy the Eagle next to the words copyright, fair use and infringement with another photo of four smiling, happy students in UNT t-shirts.

student tech tour stop number nineThis is an especially important stop. Please, pay close attention to avoid potentially serious legal complications.

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States, 17 U.S.C., to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works.

Copyright infringement means unauthorized use of copyrighted material in a manner that violates the copyright owner’s exclusive rights, as provided by law. This includes distributing, reproducing, performing or displaying protected pieces of work. A person found guilty of copyright infringement stands to face a steep fine for damages and profits, as well as potential jail time, depending on the severity of the infraction.  The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by fines and federal imprisonment.

Bottom Line: Anyone who makes unauthorized use of copyrighted material in a manner that violates the copyright owner’s exclusive rights (except for the limitations and exemptions described in the UNT policy) is committing copyright infringement and may be subject to civil and criminal penalties as well as disciplinary action by UNT.  

Unsure? If you are unsure whether something is protected by a copyright, chances are it probably is. With the help of some simple principles, and a bit of responsible research, you will be able to save yourself from breaching copyright law. Err on the side of caution.

Know the policies, the law and fair use.