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Copyright for Students

Copyright Basics

Why should you care about copyright?

As a future author, you may want to protect your work so that you are recognized for materials you have created and do not lose control of it. Signing your copyrights over to a publisher means you will have to request permission from that publisher later on if you wish to republish your work or even host your content on your own website or place it in an institutional repository.

For some things you may not care, but as your career grows you will want the recognition for the book, video, or journal article that you created.

Think about how you would feel if someone or some corporation took your work, mass distributed it, and you got no credit, or in some cases, no royalties for what you have written or produced?

Want to share your work or retain your copyrights?  See the tab on Author's Rights.

Purpose of this site?

To provide you with best practices for using materials so that you can avoid violating copyright law, which can have severe legal implications. 

These best practices will also help you avoid violating the legal contracts that Duke University has negotiated on your behalf in order to provide access to a wide-variety of resources covered under copyright.

 What is covered by copyright law?  Easy answer...almost everything.

Almost everything is protected by copyright law, even materials freely available on the Internet. 

As soon as something is set down into a format it becomes copyrighted! That can be a Web page, video, computer generated document, hand-written document, and many other formats.

You usually can make a copy for your own personal use, but widely redistributing content without permission of the copyright owner generally violates copyright law.  

Under copyright law, there are fair use exceptions for educational institutions that permits your faculty to share materials with students within certain guidelines.  See our other copyright guide  which provides information for faculty and staff involved in education.

Doesn't open access mean no copyright?  No!

Someone still owns the copyright in open access publications -- the author and/or publisher.

Open Access is a new way of making traditional journal articles, books and other materials immediately available on the Internet for everyone to USE!   

Open Access materials are still protected under copyright unless there is a statement that the material can be downloaded and distributed, or there is a Creative Commons license that gives you those rights.

What is NOT covered by copyright?

Again, almost everything is covered.  Unless you are working with one of these exceptions, you need to seek permission from the copyright owner.

- United States Government Documents (note that foreign documents may be copyrighted)

- Materials that have used a Creative Commons license instead of copyright, which gives you permmission to share and use materials

- When copyrights expire the materials move into the public domain -- this table will help you determine if something is no longer covered by copyright

- Factual and non-creative works like telephone books, standard tables of chemical information, etc.

Learn more about what you can do by exploring the other tabs in this guide.