Copyright and intellectual property
The University’s policies concerning intellectual property are intended to further its central mission—the sustained production, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge—while exercising due care for its fiduciary responsibility for the resources it administers. The University and its community members are both holders and users of protected intellectual property. The University seeks to facilitate the responsible exchange of intellectual property and, to that end, works to raise awareness about issues of copyright, educating members of the community about principles of fair use, and providing resources to advance teaching and research.
Whether you are an author or a user of copyrighted materials, it is important to understand the legal context for copyrights. They are created by law and violations of the owner’s rights can be enforced through lawsuits. Even when the owner claims a violation has occurred, there are defenses and justifications for use of some copyrighted material. But it is crucial to start by considering whether the materials are protected by copyright – or not. Additional information about copyright can be found at the website provided by the Princeton University Library, the McGraw Center for Teaching & Learning, and the Office of the General Counsel, at www.princeton.edu/copyright.
"Copyright" is one name for a bundle of rights, including the right to make copies, distribute copies, making derivative works, and the public performance and/or public display of works. Copyright protects written works, paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos, recorded music, sheet music, computer programs, video games, architectural design, choreography, etc. Artists may also have moral rights to inclusion of the name of the artist on the work, and owners may have rights to prevent others from circumventing technological protections controlling access to the works.
Copyright does not protect every idea or scrap of paper. It does not protect ideas, concepts facts, data, titles, names, phrases, procedures or methods of operation. It also does not protect unoriginal works or works that are not fixed in a tangible medium (such as paper or digital code).
The creator is ordinarily the owner of a work, but owners can transfer some or all of the rights to a work. In general, under University policies, faculty and students retain the rights to their works. However, works created by staff in the context of their employment by Princeton are owned by the University. The owner can choose to allow certain uses by the public, and may even donate the work to the public domain.
Using copyrighted materials appropriately
Princeton encourages members of its community to make thoughtful, good-faith determinations that a use of copyrighted materials is a fair use in support of teaching and research, and to properly attribute those materials.
Fair Use is a flexible defense that allows socially valuable uses of copyrighted material, including educational copying. The “Fair Use” defense is intended to protect "transformative" uses of copyrighted works, primarily to create new art, literature, scholarship etc., without permission from the copyright holder. Information about the four fair use factors can be found at the University's Copyright website (www.princeton.edu/copyright).
When doing academic work, you are responsible for properly attributing all material--data, images, ideas, sounds, film, and verbatim text--that you find through any sources, including the Internet. The University's requirements and standards for the acknowledgment of sources in academic work, found in Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, apply to all electronic media. At a minimum, you should provide a citation for an electronic source that includes the source's URL, author or site manager's name (if available) and the creation or download date.
If you want to use a copyrighted work, you should make a good faith effort to determine whether such use constitutes a “fair use” under copyright law or seek permission of the copyright-holder. As a general matter, you are free to establish links to Web pages. But you are not generally free to copy or redistribute the work of others publicly – even if you found it on the Internet – without authorization. Attribution does not resolve the issue of whether the use is permitted under copyright law.
Note that many creators do not themselves own their copyrights - the copyright in most books is effectively owned by the publisher; the copyright in most music is owned by a distributor. However, by contacting the creator you may be able to obtain permission (www.princeton.edu/copyright/getting-permission), or the creator may be able to put you in touch with the rights-holder. There are some collective licensing agencies that may be able to help you secure permission. The Library provides assistance in acquiring permissions for materials to be copied for library reserves, course materials, and other University-related purposes. Additional information is available about E-Reserves, and also at www.princeton.edu/copyright. If your questions are not answered by University policies and websites, you can send an email to email@example.com.
Members of the University community seeking permissions may not enter into agreements with vendors that would bind the University, unless the individual has proper authorization under the University Transaction Authority Policy.
Inappropriate use of copyright materials
Many of the databases, electronic periodicals and other publications that the University offers through its libraries are subject to license agreements with outside vendors that impose restrictions on your use of these resources. Similarly, many software products are licensed for the campus community by OIT and may not be used elsewhere or by other users. Before using such licensed resources, you will be given notice of any relevant restrictions and are responsible for complying with them.
Your possession of copyrighted works – including music, video, games, etc. – does not necessarily bring with it permission to pass them on to others. You are responsible for determining the restrictions on music files, video files, podcasts, computer games, programs, packages, and data before copying them in any form or permitting them to be copied by others, using University resources. You may not circumvent copyright protection even on original media you own in order to make copies of the material.
There is an important distinction between accessing content through the channels the owner makes available, whether buying a DVD or through a Netflix subscription, and downloading additional copies of that content from the internet. Some people believe that, if they own a copy of a film or television show, they can then download a copy from the internet without infringing copyright. However, unless such copying has been authorized by the owner or for some reason qualifies as a “fair use” under copyright law, the downloaded file is an infringing copy.
It is your responsibility to restrict access to others' proprietary information that you may place on-line. For example, most popular peer-to-peer file-sharing software used to transfer music, film, video and other files among users, requires users to set certain protections explicitly. If someone fails to do so, anyone on the Internet can access without permission all files stored on the person's hard drive, and copyright infringement occurs. Note that peer-to-peer file-sharing applications can establish shared space and share files without the intent or knowledge of the less-technologically sophisticated user. Although it is the responsibility of the user of such software to take proper precautions, it also is abusive to exploit the opportunity such a lapse may present.
It also is a violation of copyright to allow unauthorized uploads of copyrighted material you may have downloaded legally, via Netflix or similar service.
Copyright enforcement by owners
The entertainment industry in the United States has become quite vigilant in pursuing people who infringe copyright. The recording industry has established a website at www.whymusicmatters.com regarding legal and illegal sharing of music, and the Motion Picture Association of America has established a website related to film, television, and copyright at www.respectcopyrights.org. There is concern about copyright infringement as well among firms that produce software and computer games; literary agents regarding their clients' works; web designers; and photographers. A comprehensive resource for legal sources of online content is maintained by the non-profit higher education organization Educause, and can be found at legal sources of online content.