George Mason University’s Copyright Officer, Claudia Holland, visited our Online Journalism class on Feb. 3, to discuss copyright issues.

Holland said that copyright “secures for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”  Copyright lasts for the lifetime of the author, plus an additional 70 years.

Copyright laws are beneficial to authors and/or inventors, and the general public; authors and/or inventors receive monetary benefits, while the general public receive educational benefits.

Copyright traits include:

  • Expression of an individual’s creativity.
  • Element of originality that does not have to be unique.
  • Fixation.

However, works that are not protected include:

  • Ideas, methods of operations, principles. This means that an individual cannot prove that he/she created an idea.
  • Basic facts v. compilation of facts.
  • Public Domain. For example, government documents belong to the public.
  • Titles, names, short phrases or slogans.
  • Generally, anything published prior to 1923.

Holland also discussed the Doctrine of Fair Use, which allows individuals to use copyrighted materials under certain limitations. Holland listed “Four Fair Use Factors” that help individuals determine if their use is fair use.

The “Four Fair Use Factors” include:

  • Purpose and character of the use. Is the content being used for education, research? Or is it being used to make money?
  • Nature of the work.
  • Amount and substantiality. The rule of thumb is to use 10% of the work. Note, the 10% cannot be the heart/key element of the work!
  • Affect the use of the potential market.

The most important message in Holland’s lesson plan is that one must always give attribution!

Additional Questions for Claudia Holland

  1. Would I have to attribute all 21 images I used for my media pyramid
  2. What common problems have students gotten into regarding following copyright rules?

Holland’s suggested links regarding Fair Use:

Columbia University’s Fair Use Checklist
Fair Use Evaluator