Copyright and Fair Use

The Georgia Tech Library promotes Intellectual Property (IP)-consciousness on campus and facilitates copyright compliance. Please see below for a host of resources curated by our expert faculty.

At Georgia Tech, two main bodies of law and policy are in effect:

  1. Copyright Clause of the United States Constitution, U.S. Code Title 17. This includes copyright case law.
  2. University System of Georgia’s Board of Regent’s policy on intellectual property. Under this policy lies Georgia Tech’s IP policy and the school’s policies concerning acceptable use, cyber security and data privacy.

As a copyright owner

Your original works fixed in any tangible medium of expression are protected by copyright law, which is a form of intellectual property (IP) law. Once secured, your IP rights may be licensed, transferred, or devised. For works by an individual, the protection lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. For works created anonymously or for hire, protection lasts 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter.

Learn the basics from the US Copyright Office.

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As a copyright user

Making sure your usage of others' copyrighted work does not infringe upon their legal rights can be a daunting process. First, you need to determine whether the work you intend to use is copyrighted. Second, if the work is copyrighted, do you need to get permission? Third, how would you go about getting such permission from the copyright holder? No permission is needed if your intended us falls under one of the copyright exceptions including fair use.

Learn how to investigate the status of a work.

Click here

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection for “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” This means the work must be original and must exist in some physical form.

What about Public Domain?

Any work published prior to 1923 is in the public domain, meaning it is not protected. For works published between 1923 and 1963, the copyright must have been renewed in order to be protected for 95 years from date of publication. If it was not renewed, the work is now in the public domain. Additionally, if the author deems the work public domain, it will exist as such.

Internet content

There is a persistent myth that everything on the Internet is in the public domain. This is not true. Copyright protects virtually all written content, images, audiovisual recordings and other such works that are primarily digital. Copyright notice is not required. The best practice is to assume everything on the Internet is copyrighted.

Duration of copyright content

Copyright protection begins the moment the work is expressed in tangible form. For works by an individual, the protection lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. For works created anonymously or for hire, protection lasts 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter.

Rights of the copyright owner

Generally, you own your creation, except:

  1. When you are an employee who creates the work in the course of your employment;
  2. When you work for someone as an independent contractor and you have signed a written agreement stating the work is “made for hire;” or
  3. When you have sold or transferred the entire or partial copyright.

Subject to certain limitations, the owner of copyright can do the following:

  1. Reproduce the work;
  2. Prepare derivative works;
  3. Distribute copies of the work for sale to the public or transfer of other ownership, or by rental, lease or lending;
  4. Perform the work publicly or by means of digital audio transmission; and
  5. Display the work publicly.

Use of copyrighted material

You can use copyrighted materials when:

  1. The content is in the public domain;
  2. You are the copyright owner;
  3. You have permission from the copyright owner; or
  4. Use is granted under the concept of Fair Use.

What constitutes Fair Use?

Fair use is a defense, not a right. Courts use a four-factor analysis to determine whether a use was fair. This includes:

  1. The purpose and character of the use;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. The amount and substantiality of the work used; and
  4. The effect of the use on the market value of the work.

For more information, see the University System of Georgia’s Fair Use Checklist or check the U.S. Copyright Office’s Fair Use Index.

​​​​​​​Copyright infringement

Copyright infringement includes the use of works protected by copyright law without permission in which you infringe upon certain rights granted to the copyright holder. Examples include:

  1. Using someone else’s content on YouTube without permission;
  2. Using pictures from Google Images in your own work; and
  3. Publishing a translation of someone else’s work.

Ramifications for copyright infringement can include criminal or civil legal action from the copyright holder, plus consequences from violation of the Georgia Tech Student Honor Code, IP policy, and work rules.