Copyright and the Web

So what about the Web? When it comes to using intellectual property from the Internet you will need to concern yourself with copyright and trademark law but you don't need to worry about patent or trade secret laws.

The law is way behind technology. The fair use doctrine is intended to be flexible enough to accommodate a variety of situations and unforeseen scenarios. But to date, none of the existing case law related to the Internet tells us much about fair use or educational purposes. We must therefore apply what we do know and attempt to make the best judgment. To that end we should treat the Internet no differently than any other tangible form of expression even if there is no copyright notice in sight and the author cannot be identified.

Here are some suggested applications of the four factors that would likely favor Fair Use. These have not been tried in court but could serve as a demonstration of your "good faith effort" if it comes to that.

  • Purpose: Limiting access to your students or fellow classmates only or by password can demonstrate educational purpose.
  • Nature: Use nonfiction, scientific over fiction or motion pictures.
  • Amount: The shorter the better; use only what is appropriate for the educational purpose.
  • Market effect: Reduce it by limiting access to the system, limit to one semester, use only news or academic works, use materials not easily available for purchase.
  • Place a notice: "These materials are made available at this site for the educational purposes of students enrolled in my class at The Master's College. The materials are subject to U.S. Copyright Law and are not for further reproduction or transmission."
  • Ask your students and fellow classmates to respect the law or risk losing the opportunities for creative teaching in the future.

There are two new laws that affect copyright, the Internet and education. These are the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the TEACH Act. The TEACH Act has been incorporated into the copyright law as a revision of Section 110(2). Visit Copyright and Distance Education at the Copyright Management Center of IUPUI for information about the TEACH ACT and Stanford's Copyright & Fair Use site for information on the DMCA.