Copyright and Fair Use
The basis for copyright law is the United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, which states, “The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Lawrence University’s mission states, in part, that “The university is devoted to excellence and integrity in all of its activities…” That integrity includes the legal and ethical use of intellectual property and Lawrence therefore works to not only comply with copyright law, but also to educate its community about copyright law and the ethical use of information.
The United States Code (Title 17) states that copyright protection exists for any original work of authorship “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” Works of authorship include literary works, musical works (including any accompanying words), dramatic works (including any accompanying music), pantomimes and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, sound recordings, and architectural works. With limited exceptions, known as Fair Use, copyright protection provides exclusive rights to the owner of the copyrighted work.
The Library’s copyright research guide contains more information about resources and policies relating to copyright and music, film, classroom materials and more.
If you have questions about course reserves, please see our page, what can & cannot be placed on reserve.
Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws
Copyright infringement is the act of exercising, without permission or legal authority, one or more of the exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner under section 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code). These rights include the right to reproduce or distribute a copyrighted work. In the filesharing context, downloading or uploading substantial parts of a copyrighted work without authority constitutes an infringement. Penalties for copyright infringement include civil and criminal penalties.
In general, anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or “statutory” damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For “willful” infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can, in its discretion, also assess costs and attorneys’ fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504, 505.
Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense. For more information, please see the website of the U.S. Copyright Office and their FAQ.
File Sharing and Copyright
Although a popular activity, distributing a copyrighted file (e.g., music, movies, ebooks, etc.) without permission of the copyright holder - whether on campus or via the internet - is illegal. For more information about file sharing, see File Sharing & Copyright Violations.