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Copyright and Intellectual Property - Questions frequently asked by students

Last reviewed March 2008

Why should I worry about copyright? I am a student at an institution of higher education!

While it is true that copyright law and guidelines consider "educational use" to be a special category, it does not enjoy a total exemption. You must use others' intellectual property with care and respect. In particular, you must use copyrighted or licensed materials only for your personal study. Making more than one copy or otherwise redistributing others' intellectual property exceeds your protection under "educational use" provisions.

I can tell which works are copyrighted. Won't the item include the symbol, copyright owner, and date?

This information is not required for copyright to exist. You should assume that a work is copyrighted unless a clear statement to the contrary is made. Read and follow the guidance contained in any statement referring to "educational use."

Why can't I copy or use anything I find on the Internet? I thought nothing on the Internet is copyrighted.

Making a work available on the Internet does not change its copyright status. You should assume that a work is copyrighted unless a clear statement to the contrary is made.

My non-UT Southwestern roommate is writing a paper and needs access to MEDLINE. Can I share the MEDLINE account name and password I got from the Library?

Please don't. Both electronic resources and their companion software interfaces may be individually copyrighted as well as licensed. The Library licenses electronic products on behalf of our faculty, staff, and students only.

Is it okay for a study group to cut and paste excerpts relevant to the problem they are working on into a shared folder?

Yes, it is, so long as:

  1. The group is relatively small, no more than 10,
  2. The group does not use the contents of the shared folder as a substitute for the purchase of the course textbook,
  3. The creation of the folder is spontaneous, rather than a requirement of the course, and
  4. The information is removed from campus servers as soon as it is no longer needed for study.

I can duplicate CDROMs with my computer. Is it okay to buy a copy of a textbook or quiz bank on CD-ROM and burn additional copies to share with other students?

Sorry. You have paid for only one copy of the CD-ROM. When you make additional copies, you directly impact the ability of the copyright holder to make further sales of the product. Impact on future sales is a key indicator used by the courts when determining whether a copyright violation has occurred.

It seems to me that the best technique for taking class notes is to make a word-for-word transcription of the faculty member's lecture from an audiotape.

The words a faculty member uses in a lecture are his/her intellectual property. Note takers should either (1) restate the information received in their own words or (2) obtain and document permission from the faculty member to transcribe his/her intellectual property.

Is it okay to include the illustrations/graphs/tables used by a faculty member in his/her lecture to enhance your lecture notes?

Yes, if you have the faculty member's permission, and if the faculty member or UT Southwestern owns the copyright to the illustration/graph/table. A faculty member may not grant you permission to use another's work. Only the owner of the intellectual property may do that.

Can a faculty member or fellow student use my class writings, projects, papers, notes, or illustrations for educational purposes?

A faculty member or fellow student must obtain your permission before using your writings, projects, papers, notes, or illustrations for any purpose. The student who creates the work owns its copyright, according to UT System policy.

Is it okay to make copies or redistribute handouts a faculty member gives out in class?

Class handouts are the intellectual property of the faculty member who created them. You must have permission from the faculty member before copying or further redistributing the handout.

Can the Library help me sort out copyright and intellectual property issues?

Yes indeed. Ask at the Library iHub office. You will be referred to the Library's experts in this area.