Understanding Intellectual Property: Rules for Students

These days, the Internet provides a well of resources on just about any subject. If you're a student, it's important that you understand the basics of intellectual property. Continue reading for some rules you should follow when obtaining research, images or video from the Web.


Intellectual Property Fundamentals

With the passing of the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 (PROP IP Act), the U.S. government has begun to crack down on piracy and counterfeiting. This measure was primarily undertaken to address more severe cases of copyright and patent infringement, such as faux designer apparel vending, illegal media downloads and fake pharmaceutical sales. But the principle behind the act can also be applied to more minor forms of intellectual property theft, however innocent enough.

Guidelines for Using Protected Resources

If you're using someone else's copyrighted ideas or images and don't cite them, you're essentially passing them off as your own. And even then, some authors do not want their creative works to be reproduced. When searching a site, students should always check to see if there are any 'terms of use' listed concerning reproduction of online materials. If there is a particular copyrighted video or article that you want to use in a school project and are uncertain about whether you can reproduce it, you can always contact the author to try to obtain their permission.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, using copyrighted materials for educational and research purposes may be considered fair use, depending on such factors as:

  • How the reproduction affects the value of the original work
  • Whether the use of the original work leads to profitability
  • Amount of copyrighted work used:
    • Video clip reproductions can be no more three minutes or no more than ten percent of the total work, whichever is the lesser of the two.
    • Audio excerpts can be no more than 30 seconds or ten percent of the entire clip.
    • Excerpts of essays, stories or articles must be less than 2,500 words.
    • Other text excerpts should be no more than ten percent or 1,000 words of the entire work, whichever is less.

Using Other Web Resources

Works found on a public domain are generally OK to use. There are several search engines that focus on free information, such as Free Public Domain Photos. In fact, many organizations, colleges, universities and government sites have databases of images as well as audio and video recordings. Many of these sites post non-copyrighted works that can be accessed and used for free or for a minimal pay-per-use fee.

Examples of such websites include:

Continue reading for more information about open intellectual property.

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