Skip to Main Content
Skidmore College main website

Lucy Scribner Library

Scholarly Communication: Skidmore Copyright Policy

Copyright - Preface

Skidmore Copyright Policy


The purpose of the following document is to state in plain English Skidmore's copyright policy as it pertains to different media and distinct uses. Any questions about interpretation or applicability of these guidelines, the application of the copyright laws to academic exercises in general, or on the mechanics of seeking permission may be referred to Marta Brunner, College Librarian, Scribner Library (x5506).The Guidelines in this document are drawn from numerous sources including existing copyright statements from Scribner Library, IT and Media Services. Statements on multimedia, digital images, and software are taken directly from the CONFU (Conference on Fair use) Interim Report of December 1996. These guidelines do not have the force of law, but are recommended minimal standards for the application of fair use. See Appendix A for a definition of Fair Use as it appears in the copyright law.


Copyright is a continually changing area of law and the guidelines for digital images, multimedia and software are only proposed guidelines and have not been endorsed by all parties. The guidelines for particular media are minimal guidelines to assist in interpreting fair use, but they are only guidelines and do not have the force of law. However, it is general legal opinion that if one conforms to these guidelines then one is unlikely to be sued for copyright infringement.

Preface - What Falls Under Copyright?


Everything is Protected

Current international law states that all original work is protected by copyright regardless of whether or not a copyright notice is attached. This includes unpublished manuscripts, news reports, public speeches, personal correspondence, photographs, graphic images, videos, computer software, and of course, published journals and monographs and any other physical expression of an idea.

To be free of copyright an author (or subsequent copyright owner) must state explicitly that the work has been placed in the public domain.

What does copyright cover or not cover?

Copyright covers the expression of an idea, but not the idea itself.

For example:

  • You can copyright your murder mystery, but you cannot copyright the underlying plot.
  • You can copyright computer software, but you cannot copyright the algorithms employed by that software.
  • Copyright does not generally apply to unoriginal or non-creative compilations of public information including sports scores, telephone directories, stock market quotes...
  • Copyright does not apply to U.S. government publications except to the extent that they contain copyrighted works from other sources. The right to photocopy does not extend to documents published by others with the support of U.S. grants or contracts.
  • Anyone can make a copy of works published before March 1, 1989 which do not have a copyright notice. After that date, the need for a copyright notice was abolished and so any work created after that date is under copyright regardless of whether or not a notice of copyright is affixed.
  • Anyone can copy published works on which the copyright term and any renewals have expired.

Works published (publicly distributed) more than 95 years ago may be in the public domain, depending upon whether an owner renewed the copyright. One should assume copyright or ask the Library to ascertain if the work is still under copyright.

For works published prior to 1978 the original term of copyright endures for 28 years from the date it was secured.

If the copyright of a work published before 1978 was renewed, the term endures for 95 years from the date copyright was originally secured.

If a work was published after January 1, 1978, the term of the copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years, but at least until December 31, 2002.

What rights does a copyright owner have?

Section 106 of the Copyright Act gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  1. Reproduce copies of the work.
  2. Prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work.
  3. Distribute copies of the work by sale, rental, lease or lending.
  4. Publicly perform the work.
  5. Publicly display the work.
  6. Publicly perform copyrighted sound recordings by means of a digital audio transmission.

These rights are not absolute and are subject to Fair Use limitations (See Appendix A) and the guidelines in Parts I through VI of this document.