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Copyright Policy

It is the policy and the duty of the university to respect the copyrights associated with books, articles, compact discs, software, videos, musical compositions, and any other copyrighted work.  Because it is illegal to duplicate, distribute, circulate, or perform a copyrighted work without permission from the copyright owner, students must pay close attention to their handling of these works.  Infringing another person’s copyright is no different than stealing a CD, DVD, or book from a store.

It is always safe to assume that materials are copyrighted.  However, the following is a list of works that are not protected by copyright law and may be freely used without permission:

  • Works in the public domain. If a work was first published (publicly distributed) more than 75 years ago, it is safe to assume that it is in the public domain. The duration of copyright for works less than 75 years old depends on when the work was first published, whether the copyright was renewed, and when the author died. Anything created since 1978 is not in the public domain.
  • Works that lack originality. These include logical, comprehensive compilations like the phone book and unoriginal reprints of public domain works.
  • Works created and printed by the federal government.
  • Freeware. Not shareware, but expressly available, free-of-restrictions ware.
  • Facts. But not facts that have been presented in an author’s specific format, such as a table, graph, etc.
  • Ideas, processes, methods, and systems described in copyrighted works.
The Internet is a powerful tool. It provides many opportunities for access to entertainment materials. However, it further complicates copyright compliance.  Students need to be aware that many common practices on the Internet are illegal. These practices include uploading of copyrighted pictures and photographs without permission, and the trading of copyrighted music, movies, games, and software over the Internet through unlicensed file-sharing.

Using and making copies of copyrighted materials over a network are generally illegal unless you have the consent of the copyright holder. There are some limited exceptions but these exceptions ordinarily do not apply when copyrighted works are shared for entertainment purposes.  Copyright holders are significantly intensifying enforcement using automated scanning software to identify even small infringements, and recent legislation imposes serious criminal penalties for copyright violations through file sharing.   Federal penalties for infringement include fines of $250,000 or more, and imprisonment for up to 5 years for the first offense and up to 10 years for subsequent offenses.  Furthermore, Belmont University will subject students who violate copyrights to student discipline as outlined in the Bruin Guide.

For rules regarding the proper use of copyrighted material for educational purposes please see:  Office of Administration and University Counsel.   The Office of Administration and University Counsel is available to answer your questions about copyrights.  Feel free to call 460-6441 if you need help deciding whether a work is copyrighted or an action is infringing.