EdWeb 101: Educational Website Design
University of Higher Education, Department of Instructional Technology
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Department of Instructional Technology

University of Higher Education (UHE)



Chris Smith
Asst. Professor
Instructional Technology


State your concern for or interest in copyright as it applies to the materials included in your site. You may wish to add a simple copyright symbol (©) and date to the footer of each page to advise users. If you wish to include the work of other Web authors, obtain permission directly from the author or find the permission statement within their site. Include a credit line containing a link to the site where the image or text was obtained.

A sample copyright policy from Stanford University

Copyright Law: Frequently Asked Questions
This guide, provided by the Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources, (SUL/AIR) addresses issues concerning the use of copyrighted material in an academic setting, with an emphasis on digital materials.

What is a copyright?
A copyright is the set of exclusive legal rights authors have over their works for a limited period of time. In the United States, these rights are principally defined by the federal Copyright Statute. These rights include copying the works (including parts of the
works), making derivative works, distributing the works, and performing the works (this means showing a movie or playing an audio recording, as well as performing a dramatic work). Currently, the author's rights begin when a work is created. Copyrighted works are not limited to those that bear a copyright notice. As a result of changes in copyright law, works published since March 1, 1989 need not bear a copyright notice to be protected under the federal statute.

What works are governed by copyright?
In general, works governed by the copyright law include not only more traditional works of authorship, such as books, photographs, video and sculpture, but also works such as software and databases. Copyrighted works are protected regardless of the medium in which they are created or reproduced; thus, copyright extends to digital works and works transformed into a digital format.

Why do we have copyright law
The Constitution of the United States says that its purpose is to promote science and the useful arts. The government believed that those who create an original expression in any medium need protection for their work so they can receive appropriate
compensation for their efforts.

What is a work in the public domain?
A work in the public domain can be copied freely by anyone. Such works include those of the U.S. Government and works for which the copyright has expired. Generally, for works created after 1978, the copyright lasts for fifty years beyond the life of the author. Works created before, but not published before, 1978 have special rules. For works created and first published between 1950 and 1978 the copyright lasts 75 years. For works created and first published before 1950, it lasts for 28 years but could have been renewed for another 28 years. When planning a project, start by identifying works in the public domain that can be reused in the new work. Request permissions for materials not in the public domain early in the project. It is easier to redesign a project in the beginning stages if you discover that permission to copy cannot be obtained for certain images or sounds.

What is fair use?
Fair use provisions of the copyright law allow for limited copying or distribution of published works without the author's permission in some cases. Examples of fair use of copyrighted materials include quotation of excerpts in a review or critique, or copying of a small part of a work by a teacher or student to illustrate a lesson. New issues about fair use have arisen with the increased use of the Internet. At the time of publication, a bill is pending in Congress concerning whether fair use provisions will be extended to appropriate users/uses of copyrighted Internet materials.

When is copying is allowed by fair use provisions of the law?
There are no explicit, predefined, legal specifications of how much and when one can copy, but there are guidelines for fair use. Each case of copying must be evaluated according to four factors:

  • The purpose and nature of the use--If the copy is used for teaching at a nonprofit institution, distributed without charge, and made by a teacher or students acting individually, then the copy is more likely to be considered as fair use. In addition, an interpretation of fair use is more likely if the copy was made spontaneously, for temporary use, not as part of an "anthology," and not as an institutional requirement or suggestion.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work--With multimedia material there are different standards and permissions for different media: a digitized photo from a National Geographic, a video clip from Jaws, and an audio selection from Peter Gabriel'sCD would be treated differently--the selections are not treated as equivalent chunks of digital data.
  • The nature and substantiality of the material used--In general, when other criteria are met, the copying of extracts that are "not substantial in length" when compared to the whole of which they are part may be considered fair use.
  • The effect of use on the potential market for or value of the work--In general, any use that supplants or diminishes the normal market for the original work is considered an infringement, but a use does not have to have an effect on the market to be an infringement.

Although all of these factors will be considered, the fourth factor is the most important consideration in determining whether a particular use is "fair." Where a work is available for purchase or license from the copyright owner in the medium or format desired, copying of all or a substantial portion of the work in lieu of purchasing or licensing a sufficient number of "authorized" copies would be presumptively unfair. Where only a small portion of the work is to be copied and the work would not be used if purchase or licensing of a sufficient number of authorized copies were required, the intended use is more likely to be found to be fair.

How can I reference the copyright owner of digital works?
Make sure that the copyright symbol ("Copyright" or "(c)" can be used) and the name of the copyright owner is attached directly on, under, or around the digital work. It should be visible to anyone who will be using the excerpted material.

Copyrighted images, graphics, video, sounds, and written material must always be referenced; this is true even if the material is only being used once for a class presentation or project. This is important in case you should change your mind and want to use material for commercial or extended purposes; you would have a record of the copyright information and of where and when you found the material.

Useful Links:
Pending Copyright Bill

Copyright ©, 1997, by The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Permission granted to copy for non-commercial purposes, provided we receive acknowledgment and a copy of the document in which our material appears. No right is granted to quote from or use any material in this document for purposes of promoting any product or service.

A Practical Guide for Higher Education Website Design
Copyright 1998 Steven J. McGriff. All rights reserved.
Last revised: 11/18/98
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