US Copyright Law was designed to protect the intellectual property rights of copyright holders. The law gives copyright holders the rights to copy and distribute their own work as well as the rights to the royalties for the use of their work by commercial groups.
The Copyright law also included provisions that ensure that information can be used for educational purposes. Through the concept of fair use, non-profit educational institutions may use copyright-protected materials for teaching and training without paying royalties or permission fees. However, these are not clear-cut rules for what is or is not fair educational use, but rather are a set of criteria that must be considered when claiming fair use. Anyone wanting to claim fair use must consider all the criteria and not meet just one or two of them.
The concept of fair use is complex. "It all depends" is the most frequent comment you hear from copyright lawyers when asked a question about whether something does or does not constitute a fair use. There are instances when a for-profit could claim fair use and there are times when a non-profit entity is acting like a commercial concern and should pay royalties. It all depends...
This Copyright Guide
This guide is not intended to be official legal advice. It was written to help you to consider the issues surrounding fair use and to determine when you may or may not be covered under fair use. It will also help you decide when you should consider seeking permission from the copyright holder and how to pay the royalty fees to use his or her intellectual property. "Best practices" are provided for dealing with copyrighted materials to help you avoid violating copyright restrictions. The guide provides answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding educational use; however, it does not try to cover all the finer points of fair use in the educational setting.
This guide assumes that you are working within the health care field and are using more factual or scientific information and not literary or creative works. Those who are using poetry, fiction, music, dramatic works, or other more creative materials should consult other copyright resources that specifically deal with those types of materials.
Ultimately, the best advice is to consider how you would want your unique intellectual property used by other faculty, presenters, and students. Put yourself in the author's place and ask whether your use of the work is truly "fair use."
For further questions, or for those questions outside the scope of this guide, please contact the Medical Center Library at (919)660-1100.