Office of Research Using Copyright-Protected Materials - Office of Research

Using Copyright-Protected Materials

In general, you should get advance, written permission (a license) to exercise copyrights to someone else’s copyright-protected work in your UC Davis teaching, research and writing. There are some exceptions. For example, students do not need to get copyright permission to use material in their own course assignments. UC Davis’s ReproGraphics does the copyright licensing work for course readers, syllabi and other materials they produce; you submit the article and they do the rest.

Everyone is individually and directly responsible for complying with federal copyright law and university policies. UC Policy requires that UC Davis facilities that make copies and legitimate copy shops serving UC Davis instructors require customers to certify in writing that they have either obtained the copyright owner’s permission via a license, or that they believe that the copying is Fair Use.

The UC Copyright Website has a nice checklist in the Policy and Guidelines on the Reproduction of Copyrighted Materials for Teaching and Research to help you clear copyrights for material you want to use. Although the policy dates to 1986 and uses references to photocopies as the medium, it applies to any kind of media including digital files.

And ethical issues such as plagiarism are separate from copyright. Attribute, attribute, attribute!

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Are There People in Your Photo?

Separate from the copyright, there are rules about what you can do with images or recordings which have people in them. To put it briefly, famous people have the right to control uses of their public persona, and the rest of us have the right to privacy; that is, not to find ourselves on the web, in a magazine, on the banners waving on town lampposts.

If you are making some kind of recording with people in it (especially minors) you should get a “UC Davis Consent to Record” form signed by them (or their adult representative) at the time. Keep it, or send it to UC Davis Technology Transfer Services to keep. And if you are using someone else’s recording with people in it, ask them if they got a consent first.

This only applies if someone who knew the person would recognize them. You don’t need it for the back of someone’s head, for example.

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Software is Special

Computer software it is usually licensed rather than sold. The physical copy in your hand is a separate piece of property than the software that’s on it. You buy the disk, but you obtain rights to use (that is, to make a copy from the disk on your computer) the software via a copyright license. This section is about the software copyright license.

Software licenses tend to be highly restrictive as to the quantity and distribution of copies, if any are allowed at all. Exceeding those limits is easy to do, but just because you can technologically doesn’t mean it’s legal. Since violating the license (knowingly or not) usually terminates it immediately, copyright infringement by a single employee or department can have campus-wide repercussions. Employees responsible for non-university software must be particularly diligent in ensuring license compliance. This includes removing software from hardware prior to disposal, whether trade-in, transfer, sale, salvage, recycle, or donation.

Some software licenses allow installation and use on home computers used for university business. Unauthorized use of software is considered theft under university policy and state and federal law.

Increasingly, software is obtained through non-negotiable “point/click” or “shrink wrap” licenses which are accepted by downloading the software from a website or opening the software package. UC Davis has pre-approved site licenses (secure login required) for most popular software, and can license other commercial software individually through Purchasing.

Non-commercial or research software licenses have widely varying terms and conditions which may violate university policy but unlike commercial licenses, they are usually negotiable. Agreements for non-commercial software should be sent to UC Davis Technology Transfer Services for review and signature prior to accepting or using the code.

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Finding Copyright Owners

See the Copyright Web Resources page.

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Copy Machines & Computer Lab Printers

Copyright-protected materials are often reproduced on University copy machines or in computer labs. Departments are responsible for posting a warning notice in the immediate vicinity of any copy machine or lab printer so that the university is not required to police the equipment. Failure to post this could cause the university to be liable for copyright infringement.

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Definitions of capitalized terms and FAQs are on the University of California copyright website.

If you have an ucdavis(dot)edu email address you can join the copyright-info listserv or email questions to copyright(at)ucdavis(dot)edu.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be legal advice about your personal copyrighted property or situation. If you have questions about your own copyright protected work, please consult an attorney with expertise in copyright. UC Davis students may be entitled to a free consultation through ASUCD.