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This guide will talk about basic copyright for students, staff and faculty at NCWC


All faculty, staff, and students of North Carolina Wesleyan University have a responsibility to use materials in compliance with US Copyright law. This guide has been created with advice on frequently asked questions and links to further U.S. Copyright law and court cases.

Copyright law is vague and difficulty to understand. This is because the law is written broadly and refined by court cases, so there might only be general principles to follow rather than a definitive “right or wrong” answer. With the easy ability to photocopy, scan, duplicate, rip, and save all manner of materials, it often seems that since something can be copied without asking permission that doing so must be okay. This is not the case. It is important for you to understand the basics of copyright law and how to obtain permission to use other people's works - just as you might want your works to be protected. 

The information in this guide is provided to help provide a basic understanding about U.S. Copyright. This guide is not intended to provide legal advice.

Copyright Law Definition

Copyright law, as defined in Title 17 of the United States Code, protects "original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression" for a limited period. Copyright protection includes, for instance, the legal right to publish and sell literary, artistic, or musical work, and copyright protects authors, publishers and producers, and the public. Copyright applies both to traditional media (books, records, etc.) and to digital media (electronic journals, web sites, etc.). Copyright protects the following eight categories of works:

  1. literary works
  2. musical works
  3. dramatic works
  4. pantomimes and choreographic works
  5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  7. sound recordings
  8. architectural works

Ownership of a copyrighted work includes the right to control the use of that work. Use of such work by others during the term of the copyright requires either permission from the author or reliance on the doctrine of fair use. Failure to do one or the other will expose the user to a claim of copyright infringement for which the law provides remedies including payment of money damages to the copyright owner.