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Copyright RCL

Resources and information regarding copyright.

Dominican University Copyright Policy

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Creative Commons Fair Use What is Public Domain?

Every member of the Dominican University community is responsible for his/her use of material in a course and to ensure it is in compliance with federal copyright law. University offices will not knowingly assist any faculty, staff, or student in creating material that can be reasonably anticipated to be in violation of copyright and outside the fair use guidelines outlined below.

The educational process involves research and creation of works, and Dominican University students, faculty, and staff are active members of this process. Dominican University faculty, staff, students, and administrators must also recognize, and abide by the U.S. Copyright law while teaching and researching. Any Dominican University affiliate that does not comply with the fair use standards of the U.S. Copyright law puts the University at risk and assumes liability for their actions. It is important that everyone who uses library materials, creates works, teaches, and places items on reserve or in the learning management system understands the U.S. Copyright law and fair use.

This overview is for reference only and is subject to any future changes in copyright law. See the resources provided at the end of this Policy if you are uncertain about whether using or copying material is permissible under the law, whether such use complies with the University’s procedures, or when and how to obtain proper authorization to use copyrighted material.

Definition of copyright:  The U.S. Copyright Office defines copyright as: a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural and audiovisual creations.”  “Copyright” literally means the right to copy but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery, though these may be protected by a patent. Similarly, names, titles, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, and listings of contents or ingredients are not subject to copyright, though they may be protected by a trademark. For more information please consult:

Copyright symbol: ©

Copyright FAQ

Who can claim copyright?

Any author or creator of a work expressed in a tangible medium--if you can see it, hear it, touch it, or read it--can claim copyright.  A major exception to this rule applies to "works made for hire."  Works made for hire are, generally, anything created by an employee within the scope of employment or any work commissioned by a body for a particular purpose.  Also free from copyright are titles, names, short phrases, abbreviations, and works created entirely of publicly available knowledge and containing no original authorship.

Copyright protection extends to both published and unpublished works and no registration is required.

In some cases the author or creator may choose to transfer the copyright of a work to another entity.  Transfer of exclusive rights must be documented in writing and must be signed by the copyright owner.

What works are covered protected copyright law?

Almost any work that you can see, hear, read, or touch are protected.  The law makes the distinction that the work does not have to be "directly perceptible" to be protected (meaning that digital works are also subject to copyright protection).  Below is a brief list of covered works:

  • literary works
  • musical works, including any accompanying words
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

These categories should be considered broadly to include works not explicitly defined here.

How long does copyright protection last?

Copyright protection extends for many years.  The general rule is the author's life plus 70 years.  In the case of joint authors, copyright protection endures for 70 years after the last author's death.  Works of corporate or anonymous authorship are protected for 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter.

Exclusive Rights of the Copyright Holder

According to the U.S. Copyright Office the following are the exclusive rights of the copyright holder (section 106, title 17, U.S. Code):

  1. To reproduce the work;
  2. To prepare derivative works;
  3. To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale, rental, lease, or lending;
  4. In the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works; pantomimes; motion pictures; and other audiovisual works, to perform the work publicly;
  5. In the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works; pantomimes; and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and
  6. In the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement is the act of exercising, without permission or legal authority, one or more exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner under section 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code). These rights include the right to reproduce or distribute a copyrighted work. In the file-sharing context, downloading or uploading substantial parts of a copyrighted work without authority constitutes an infringement.

Penalties for copyright infringement include civil and criminal penalties. In general, anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or “statutory” damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For “willful” infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can, in its discretion, also assess costs and attorneys’ fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504-505.

Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense.

For more information, please see the website of the U.S. Copyright Office at

In addition to potential civil and criminal penalties, unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including (but not limited to) unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, constitutes a violation of University policy, and may result in disciplinary action by the University, up to and including termination/dismissal for employees and dismissal/expulsion for students.