From: Tim Johnson

To: Frank Spada, program chair

Date: 10/22/99

Subject: An Investigation into the Copyright Law

A question arose at our most recent department program meeting concerning the uses of copies made from copyrighted material. I’ve collected information on this subject and have condensed it for consideration of the department at our next discussion.

From information distributed by the Copyright Office of the US Government (Circular #1, Copyright Basics) an owner of a copyright has the exclusive right (and authority to authorize others) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies.

The only way to determine if the work is protected from unauthorized copies is to look inside the information on the backside of the Title page. For instance, Introductory Circuit Analysis by Robert L. Boylestad contains a copyright with the following statement:

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, in any form or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Obviously, we can not copy anything out of this book without consulting with the publisher, in this case Prentice-Hall. Upon calling Prentice-Hall (800-947-7700), I found they had a separate department setup to handle permission requests (201-236-3284). First you must send the request in writing to them (fax permitted, 201-236-3290) with detailed information regarding what is being copied (and for whom) and then one of 3 permission administrators that they had available would respond to questions. In a conversation with Emily McGee of Prentice-Hall, one exception to this rigorous procedure was allowed: if the book supply had run short at the bookstore and more books were on order which the students were obligated to purchase, they would accept an email with the PO # included allowing you to copy one or two chapters to tide the class over.

One method suggested for bypassing the copyright requirement to seek permission was to alter the copy in some fashion. A Derivative work is a work that is based upon one or more pre-existing works. Derivative works which consisting of editorial revisions or other modifications "can" represent an original work of authorship and be considered for its own copyright. I would leave it to the reader to judge how much editorial work would be necessary to derive a new text. One of the rights listed under the copyright law gives the owner of the copyright permission to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work, so a mere alteration may not past muster.

The copyright law really comes down hard on copies made for sale to the public. A copy of the work can be "displayed" and not in and of itself be considered a violation of the law. This means you could use an overhead projector and show the text. As long as the work doesn’t change hands, nothing has happened that would constitute a violation of the copyright law. Giving copies away are covered by the phrase, "…other transfer of ownership,…". It’s not allowed.

This problem of copyright infringement by educators is by no means a new problem and it has been addressed in Circular 21 published by the Copyright Office. Section 107 of Title 17, United States Code, provides for limitations and exemptions as part of the Copyright Law. This permits the fair use of a copyrighted work for various purposes including teaching. They specifically address distributing multiple copies for classroom use. Congress has set criteria to use in judging if a particular use is fair or not:

    1. The purpose and character of the use with consideration if the use is for commercial use or non-profit educational use.
    2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
    3. The amount of the work copied.
    4. The effect on the market for the work.

I’ve included on the next page a copy of an agreement between educators and publishers found in Circular 21 for your edification (pp. 7ff). We should try to meet these minimum standards in our copying but be advised that these guidelines are for Not-For-Profit Educational Institutions. Since it is stated in the agreement that these guideline are not intended to limit the types of copying permitted under the standards of fair use. That exclusion might open the door for WIT to use these guidelines as a general rule.

So, how can we distribute copies of a text that is copyrighted? The publishers would like us to purchase the books of which we might only need a small portion thereof. This means we’d need the correct phone number and possible a form (soliciting the information required) which we could fill out. Two, we need a hard-luck story and a purchase order number. The hoops we’d have to jump through to obtain the permission would most likely delay the distribution of the information. One suggestion is to copy the text, have it made into overheads and show it in class and hope the students can write quickly. Another is to follow the guidelines and hope that WIT is not selected as a test case for prosecution.

Additional Information

If you are writing an article, it is no longer necessary to add the copyright mark in order to claim a copyright. The use of the mark, ©, is optional but recommended. Also, next to the mark is the year of first publication of the work. The publication of the work is when copies of the work were first offered to the public for sale. Then would come the name of the owner of the copyright. Beyond this, registration of the copyright is required before an infringement suit may be filed in court. Registration entails filling out a form, paying a fee, and depositing a copy of the work with the Library of Congress. Software can also be copyrighted and person(s) interested should requested Circular 61 from the copyright office by calling their Forms Hotline 202-707-9100. The phone number for the copyright office itself is 202-707-3000.

Users of MSWord can create the copyright mark by formatting the letter z in Syastro font (found in the pull-down menu for font selection): z. The best way of creating the copyright mark is to hold down the Control and Alternate keys while you press the letter C on the keyboard (at least in MSWord): ©. This method is recognized by most browsers on the web where you really want the mark. If you notice a small letter Z after either of the two previous sentences as well as in the second sentence in the paragraph above, your browser is not set to recognize fonts created by MSWord which was used to create this document.

I could copyright this memo about copyrights but it is not being offered for sale. Since I am not publishing this memo, it is an unpublished work. Copyright protection exists for unpublished works provided it is so marked. With no copyright mark, you could make copies of this memo and distribute them with impunity. Please note that since this memo is being "published" on the web, I have added the copyright mark at the end of this document.

I taught the VHDL course, ELEC515, last summer and found the text was inappropriate for undergraduate study. I substituted whole chapters out of five different textbooks (I believe, in no case exceeding 10% of the entire book). In each instance, I included as the first page, a copy of the title page, which contain thereon the copyright information. I do not intent to reuse the same material again but will select one of the five texts for the students to purchase should I teach the same course again next summer.

Speaking of copies, you can download the circulars mentioned above for viewing the complete document from plus many more items of interest. For instance, there is a circular just for software issues.

z 2000, Tim Johnson