The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (PL105-304) became law on October 28, 1998. This law updates and replaces the Copyright Revision Act of 1976. This Library web site provides information about provisions for personal, classroom, and reserve copy usage, as well as conditions for the fair use of educational multimedia. The Library staff has prepared this information to help keep users informed about current accepted policies and practices, which serve to respect the rights of creators and copyright holders and the rights of the public.

Copyright Defined

Copyright provides protection provided by United States law (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors or creators of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other intellectual works. Copyright applies to electronic resources, including the Internet, to the same extent it applies to materials in traditional formats. Please note that copyright law is interpretative; the following guidelines have no force of law. The intent of copyright law is to advance learning and encourage the dissemination of knowledge. When an original work is created in any medium, its creator owns a copyright on it. That authors and inventors benefit from copyright is a side effect of the law.

There are some things that copyright law will not protect. Copyright will not protect the title of a book or movie, nor will it protect short phrases such as “Make my day”. Copyright protection also doesn’t cover facts, ideas or theories. These things are free for all to use without permission.

The creation of new works is encouraged by granting the creator the exclusive right to:

  • reproduce (i.e. duplicate, photocopy, etc.) the work
  • prepare a derivative work
  • distribute copies of the work
  • perform the work publicly
  • display the work publicly

The copyright holder can also sell or assign any of these rights to someone else, such as a publisher or distributor.

Copyleft Defined

Copyleft is a method for making an intellectual work (i.e.: weblogs/blogs or other online writings) available to others so that they have the freedom to make modifications as long as the same liberty is passed along. Note that copyleft licenses are copyright licenses and there are many ways to fill in the particulars; the copyright holder chooses the terms. Such licenses help reserve copyright while allowing certain uses of a work given the stated limitations. See the Creative Commons Website for further licensing information.

Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act- TEACH Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-273, 11/02/02)

The TEACH Act updates copyright law for digital online education addressing the use of digital technologies in distance education (for example: e-reserve use.) Digital materials can be used for teaching if the use is a fair use. Certain requirements must be met before exemptions may be used:

  • Works must be lawfully made and acquired;
  • Teaching must occur at an accredited, non-profit educational institution;
  • The electronic information should only be available to students enrolled in the class by taking reasonable steps to prevent retransmission;
  • Use of the work is limited to a small portion of the work;
  • Works must be labeled with the notice of copyright.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act – FERPA

If copies of a student’s papers or projects are made available to the community, both the student and the professor must sign a statement giving permission. See the college’s official Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Policy for more specific information of this law and the college’s procedure to implement it.

Further Web Resources for Copyright Information

Print Sources for Copyright Information

Bielefield, Arlene and Lawrence Cheeseman. Technology and Copyright Law. New York: Neal-Schuman, 1999.

Bruwelheide, Janis H. Copyright Primer for Librarians and Educators. Chicago, IL: American Library Association, 1995.

Hoffman, Gretchen McCord. Copyright in Cyberspace. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2001.

Russell, Carrie. Complete Copyright. American Library Association, 2004.

Talab, R.S. Commonsense Copyright. Jefferson, CA: McFarland, 1999.

Questions about copyright law? Contact:

Kate Boylan
Director, Archives & Digital Initiatives; x5821

Lauren Slingluff
Interim Dean & Director, Collections & Resources; x3733

The creator of this page provides the Wheaton College campus with copyright information and guidelines but it is not offered as professional legal advice.

Copyright/Fair Use