Digital Copyright FAQ
What do you mean by Digital Copyright? Is it different from the other copyright policies of the College?
Digital Copyright refers to U.S. Copyright Law relating to the use of electronic and multimedia materials. This includes the recording, reproducing, storing, and distribution of media-based instructional materials, such as audio, video, still images, and multimedia. Generally, you must seek permission of the copyright holder to include these materials in your work.
Following guidelines developed by professional organizations, such as the American Library Association, Music Library Association and Visual Resources Association, network access to digitized materials used for instructional purposes must be restricted to the Bowdoin College campus network and those authorized to use that network.
How can I present supplementary digital materials to my classes?
You can use either the Library Reserve System or Blackboard. If you place your materials in Blackboard, make sure to ask permission from copyright holders for the use of their materials, if appropriate, and cite the source properly. If you use the Library Reserve System, circulation staff will seek copyright permission for you. Both systems restrict content use to those enrolled in the class. If you need assistance, please contact Library or IT staff.
What about "Fair Use"? Shouldn’t I be able to use anything freely? After all, this is a college, and we're not making a profit!
Fair Use sometimes applies to course-related intellectual materials when they are limited in scope, chosen spontaneously, and used solely by students and faculty in a particular course. But even for course work, copying a whole CD or video is not an acceptable alternative to buying an original.
Using someone else's intellectual property on an open Web site without permission -- even a course-related Web site -- usually can't be considered Fair Use because the potential audience is so large. You’ll usually have a better chance of getting permission if you restrict access to your content to those in your class or on the Bowdoin network.
Extracurricular uses, such as the use of images on the Website created by a social club, have a harder time fitting under the fair use umbrella because they are not curricular.
How can I get permission to copy the images, sounds and text that I want?
Contact the copyright owner, and explain exactly your proposed use. Your web page, multimedia project, research paper, etc. should note that the item is copyright protected and used with permission. For example:
© 2009 The Brunswick Company
Used with permission
The best way to locate a corporate copyright owner is to use the Library web site for directories and phone numbers.
What about intellectual property that I create? How can I give it copyright protection?
Copyright protection exists the moment you complete your creation. You do not need a copyright notice (©2009 Your Name), but it's advisable to include it. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not necessary for basic copyright protection. However, it does strengthen your position if you ever wish to litigate someone's misappropriation of your intellectual property. For further information see Bowdoin’s Intellectual Property Policy.
You can also investigate the use of a Creative Commons License. These licenses, in cooperation with existing copyright law, allow others to use your work in the manner specified by the type of license you choose. More information can be found here.
How can I tell when something is "Fair Use"?
Fair Use is determined by applying 4 FAIR USE FACTORS when you copy, adapt, show, perform, or transmit someone else's intellectual property.
- FACTOR # 1 PURPOSE AND CHARACTER OF USE
- Educational use is favorable when applying this factor.
- FACTOR #2 NATURE OF COPYRIGHTED WORK
- Use of very creative works (such as images, literary works, and music) is severely limited.
- FACTOR #3 AMOUNT/SUBSTANTIALITY/PORTION IN RELATION TO WHOLE COPYRIGHTED WORK
- Less is usually better, but sometimes just a few seconds of a song, for example, can convey the heart of it. The whole of anything --cartoon, poem, image -- would rarely be considered Fair Use except in a classroom setting.
- FACTOR #4 EFFECT OF USE ON POTENTIAL MARKET
- When an item can be purchased, copying it has a clear market impact. But often the market impact is more subtle. Copyright owners, especially in the commercial sector, do not tolerate the appropriation of their text, images, music, etc., for other purposes.
I know that I can freely use material whose copyright has expired. What other materials can I use without permission?
You can use most works created by the U.S. Government, publish links to Web sites, and use work which has entered into the public domain. Anyone may freely reproduce the address of a Web site, to which readers may hyperlink. Best practices suggest proper citation and notifying the Web page provider.
…copy a portion of a CD, Videotape or DVD and post it on the Blackboard page for my class?
Yes, provided the file is limited to individuals enrolled in the course and is streamed through College-controlled equipment and via a campus-restricted network The Music Librarians Association has created an excellent Website offering practical guidelines for the use of audio materials to support class reserves.
…post a PDF of a journal article on my class Blackboard page?
Yes. The American Library Association’s guidelines on photocopying for reserves considers library reserves an extension of the classroom. For more information, please consult this page.
…create a collection of scanned images for use in the classroom and for students to review on reserve for a new course I’m preparing. Do I need to seek permission to use each image?
Yes, you can create a collection of scanned images as described as long as it is limited to individuals enrolled in the course and images are displayed via a campus-restricted network.
You may have to seek permission to use certain images and the image collection guidelines of the Visual Resources Association offer guidance concerning acquisition, use and retention of these materials. The VRA guidelines state that images can be scanned and photographed for coursework use if "images of suitable quality are not readily available at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable time…."
The Code of Best Practices of the College Art Association provides visual-arts professionals with a set of principles addressing best practices in the fair use of copyrighted materials.
Bowdoin faculty, staff and students have access to ARTstor, which is a good place to begin searching for many readily available images before one considers scanning from copyrighted sources.
…show a video from the Library collection in a film series open to the Bowdoin community and the public?
No, unless public performance rights have been secured that allow viewing by those outside your class. The College’s Film/Video Screening Policy outlines these guidelines. It is perfectly acceptable to show films from the Library collection to those enrolled in your class, but not to the public.
....make a copy of a DVD I bought and put it in the Library collection?
No. Whether for U.S. or non-U.S. region recording, you should place an order so that the Library can order a legitimate copy for the collection. This includes non-US region DVD’s. Please consult with the staffs of IT/Equipment Services(3612) or the Media Commons(3286) for information concerning playback equipment for non-US region materials.
…place a rented DVD on reserve for a period of time for a class?
Yes. The item can both be placed on reserve and/or shown to groups of students during face-to-face instruction.
…ask IT/Equipment Services to videotape a public lecture on campus so that I can use it later in a class?
IT/Equipment Services routinely records live performances on campus when performance permissions have been obtained in advance and in writing. Please check with staff of the department concerning reproduction rights.
...get help from IT to make a DVD of clips from several films and then use this to illustrate my class lecture? Can students do the same for presentations?
…use an image from the Bowdoin Web site on our student organization t-shirt?
You must seek permission of the copyright holder. For Bowdoin-related images, logos, and trademarks, please contact the Bowdoin College Office of Communications and Public Affairs.
…For my new book, I’d like to reproduce a still image from a commercially-produced film. Can I do this?
Yes, but only with permission from and the payment of any possible fees demanded by the copyright holder.
What will happen to me if I don’t follow these policies?
Individuals are liable for their own actions, and they may place the College in jeopardy as well. Copyright law sets strict penalties on infringement with damages up to $100,000 per work. The College expects those using digital materials to be familiar with College guidelines and abide by them. It is especially important that those who supervise staff or students be aware of their responsibilities regarding requests to copy and distribute materials, especially on the Web. Further information about appropriate uses of college technology may be found at the IT and Library web sites.
Who can help me at Bowdoin if I have questions about copyright?
Please consult contact Carmen Greenlee.
Other useful copyright-related Web pages:
- When Copyrights Expire is a table specifying when works are free to be used.
- Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials, maintained by Georgia Harper, General Counsel at the University of Texas, Austin, includes "Rules of Thumb" and other authoritative advice.
- The Copyright Office of the U. S. Government has an excellent home page, which includes links to Copyright Office Forms for anyone who wants to register an intellectual property.
- The University of Texas provides information on seeking permission for a wide array of materials.
Adapted from and used with permission of Wellesley College