Advice on Appropriate Use

Is my use considered “fair use”?

Stanford has a nice explanation of the provisions of fair use, including descriptions of permitted uses for comment & criticism, and parody, plus an explanation of the "four factor test" that governs fair use.

The Association of Research Libraries also has a guide on the "Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries".

The University of Minnesota provides this Fair Use Analysis Tool, which will help you determine whether your use meets the guidelines.

How do I obtain permission to use a copyrighted work?

If it has been established that a planned use of a copyrighted item is not a fair use, permission must be obtained from the copyright holder. This means contacting the copyright holder (or their agent) and requesting permission to copy or publicly display the work. Royalties may have to be paid to obtain permission. For printed works, particularly periodical articles, the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) provides this service and can be contacted directly from this site. For more information see Instructions for First-time users of the Copyright Clearance Center.

Am I breaking the law if I share digital copies of songs?

Yes, it is illegal unless you own the copyright (i.e., you created the work yourself) or you have permission from the creator / owner to distribute it. Legally purchasing a song or a movie may not give you the right to share it with others. The Recording Industry of America (RIAA) explains the law on sharing music files.

How is peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing software related to copyright infringement?

Copyrighted material that is illegally distributed over the Internet can take many forms. However, most DMCA notices received by UST involve music, movies or television shows, and software, including video games, being used without permission. Other types of materials include written works, audio- and e-books, photographs and images, including Web sites or other Web-based content.

It is not against the law to use a P2P file-sharing program or to share non-copyright protected materials such as your own works or works in the public domain. At the same time, P2P file sharing is the illegal distribution method most often cited in DMCA notices. If you purchase a song or a movie, you have the right to keep a copy of it on your computer for your own use. But if your computer contains P2P software, you may be sharing it with people who have not paid for it. That is copyright infringement and you can be held responsible.

In recent years, copyright holders, such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), have stepped up legal efforts to combat infringement, including targeting college students with increased numbers of copyright Infringement notices. As a student, you should be aware of the risks you take if you choose to participate in this activity.

Four things you should know:

  1. UST receives hundreds of copyright infringement notices each year, almost exclusively for students.
  2. You can receive a notice for downloading or for allowing others to upload content from your computer. If you have file sharing software on your computer, you may be distributing copyrighted materials anytime your computer is on the network.
  3. If you receive a notice for inappropriate activity on the campus network, your network or Internet access may be temporarily disabled and you will be required to complete specific actions before access is reinstated.
  4. Repeat offenders will be referred to the university student judicial process for further disciplinary action.

How do I report a copyright violation?

Infringements of copyrights owned by UST and copyright violations on UST's network should be reported to abuse@stthomas.edu.