FAQ for Students

Why is copyright important?  What does it do?

Copyright laws determine who has the right to copy, distribute, sell, and make works based off the original work (derivative works).  Copyright guarantees that the copyright holder can profit from their creation by limiting how others can use the work.  It protects most works that are in a fixed and tangible form, such as books, articles, films, music, art, even websites.

Is everything protected under copyright?

No.  Things like ideas and thoughts aren’t protected, because they aren’t in a fixed and tangible form.  Other things that may be in a fixed and tangible form but that aren’t protected by copyright include lists (like phone books), recipes (although cookbooks are protected), and government forms and documents.  Works where the copyright has expired are considered public domain and aren’t protected. 

So I can’t use any copyrighted material for any reason whatsoever?

Not true.  Under U.S. Copyright Law, there’s a provision called Fair Use that allows limited use of materials for educational purposes–research, teaching, and learning. 

What is the difference between breaking copyright and plagiarism?

Copyright determines who has the right to copy, distribute, sell, and make derivative works (works based off the original).  Copyright guarantees that the copyright holder can profit from their creation by limiting how others can use the work.

Plagiarism is using someone else’s work and not giving credit to them.  Not citing information that you got from a book, article, interview, film, or other  source, even if you didn’t break copyright, is still committing plagiarism.

You can commit plagiarism without breaking copyright laws by using information in a paper and not citing it.  You can break copyright laws without committing plagiarism by downloading a song and making copies to give to your friends.  You can also do both simultaneously; using an illegally-obtained MP3 music file as background to your PowerPoint presentation and not citing it is committing both copyright infringement and plagiarism.

Do I create copyrighted works?

Yes.  Your papers, PowerPoint presentations, portfolios, even websites are considered copyrighted.  You don’t even have to register your work for it to happen; copyright is automatic once something is in a fixed and tangible form.

Can I copy pages from a book?

Under certain circumstances, you are allowed to make copies, for personal use, of up to one chapter or about 10%  from any given book, provided it is for an educational purpose. 

Why can’t I make any copies from certain textbooks?

Some textbooks are considered consumables, which means they are meant to be used only once and by one person only.  By making copies, you are robbing the copyright holders (publishers, authors, etc.) of a sale.

Is it OK for me to print this article?

Copying an article for personal use in teaching, learning, or research is like copying a chapter from a book.  Since the article is only one part of an entire magazine, journal, or newspaper, printing articles for your research from a database is acceptable.

I’ve downloaded music and/or videos in iTunes.  Can I share these with friends?

You cannot make copies of music, videos, or other paid content to give away or to sell.  You may play the content back for them, but you can’t give them copies.

But isn’t it mine once I’ve bought it?

What you bought is a copy, not the rights.  While you have the right to play the content, you don’t have the right to make copies–only the copyright holder has this right.  This is true of artwork, music, movies, photos, and any other copyrighted work.

I found a great deal on Adobe software online–it’s dirt cheap compared to what stores and some other online sites are selling it for.  Why is that?

U.S. copyright laws differ from those in other countries, and from international copyright laws.  This can be confusing, because some things like software, whether it’s Adobe’s Creative Suite or Microsoft’s Office programs, can be sold in foreign countries for far less.  However, because you are making the purchase from the United States, for use in the United States, you can get caught and charged with copyright violations.

What is the punishment for violating copyright?

It depends on what you’ve done and how much of an impact your violations made.  Some people are fined thousands of dollars, some serve jail time.  You may be told to remove copyrighted material from your YouTube account or your website (this is known as a take-down notice).  The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) both take stands against copyright violations; clicking their links will take you to their respective pages on copyright.

 For more information on copyright, please see the following pages: 

Copyright Issues and You
Ancilla College Copyright Policy (why we follow copyright laws)
Copyright Guidelines (what to do, when to do it, and how much to use)
Copyright FAQ for Students
Copyright FAQ for Instructors
Common Copyright Terms

The library director is head of the Ancilla College Copyright Committee, and questions about copyright can be sent to her here

 Library Information
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 8 AM – 9 PM
Fri. 8 AM – 4 PM
Saturday 10 AM – 2 PM
Phone: 574-936-8898 ex. 323
email: library@ancilla.edu


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