LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 11, 2019) — University of Kentucky Information Technology Services offers information to the UK community on copyright law. Copyright provides legal protection to works of authorship in any medium, from textbooks, to music, to movies. If a work is protected by copyright, you cannot use the work in certain ways — specifically you cannot make copies of the copyright material — without the permission of the copyright owner.
Making unauthorized copies of a copyright work may be copyright infringement, especially if it is a commercial work. For example, you are infringing copyright if you download copyright music or movies from websites that do not have the copyright owner's permission to distribute those works.
Penalties for copyright infringement may include termination of computer and internet privileges, as well as potential civil liability, or even criminal penalties, if you are selling copyright works without permission.
However, not all works of authorship are protected by copyright. Any work created before 1924 is in the public domain — along with many later works. Many authors intentionally place their works in the public domain, or use Creative Commons licenses to authorize different uses of their work. Furthermore, the fair use doctrine provides that many uses of copyright works are non-infringing.
If you use a work in a way that transforms the work or does not conflict with the copyright owner's ability to sell copies of the work, it is probably a fair use. For example, using parts of a work to create a new work is a fair use, because it is transformative. Likewise, making personal copies of a work for an academic purpose or making a mixtape for your friend is a fair use. But, posting or downloading copies of a work to a torrent site is not a fair use.
For more information on copyright and how to appropriately use the works of others, please visit:
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