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Writing and Citing: Practical Copyright for Students

Copyright Trivia for New Media Students

The famous documentary Eyes on the Prize is used in various courses offered at Molloy College. This documentary is a good example of how copyright laws can influence what students are able to view, and equally important, how copyright can influence decisions about what media (films, documentaries, music videos) you may create while fulfilling your coursework. First shown on PBS in 1987, the documentary was immediately hailed as groundbreaking and soon found its way into schools everywhere. Then in the 1990s the rights began to expire and in an effort to adhere to copyright laws, Eyes on the Prize was pulled from viewing and sales were stopped in 1993.

Duke University School of Law hosted the conference FRAMED!! HOW LAW CONSTRUCTS AND CONSTRAINS CULTURE in 2004 and one of the speakers was documentary filmmaker Orlando Bagwell, who created Eyes on the Prize. He explains here how the documentary ended up being pulled from the shelves.

Disappearing History?
(MPEG version)

In 2006, concerned citizens helped the producers behind the documentary to return Eyes on the Prize to the screens and on sale by paying the licensing fees of over $915,000.

Copyright Trivia for Students of Literature

Copyright laws affect the literature that students and the public become exposed to. Look at the cases below  for further examples.

  • James Joyce:- With Bloomsday celebrated worldwide, and 2 books on the 100 best books list, it has been surprisingly hard to quote from Joycean works such as Ulysses and The Dubliners outside of an academic setting until January 1st 2012 when the copyright on his works expired in the U.S.
  • The Wind Done Gone:- A retelling of Gone with the Wind, the author of this book was brought to court by the copyright holder of Gone with the Wind who claimed it was a derivative work. Only the owner of the copyright of a creative work is allowed to make, or give permission to make any derivative works. This article delves into the issues surrounding the case.
  • Vladimir Nabakov:- Lo's Diary based off the classic Lolita, was written by Pia Pera and tells the story featured in Nabakov's Lolita from Lolita's point of view. The owner of the copyright claimed that Lo's Diary was a derivative work and therefore copyright infringement. Here is an article on the issue. 
  • Cory Doctorow:- An author of sci-fi and fantasy books for young adults. He, despite having bestsellers, chooses to offer some of his books free online by publishing them with a Creative Commons license. Visit his website then familiarize yourself with open source and creative commons.

Copyright Trivia for Students of Art (Transformative v. Derivative)

One of the rights copyright holders have is to create derivative works(works that are based on works that already exist), and to determine whether others can do the same. Artist Shepard Fairey used the Fair Use defense when he went to court for the famous Hope Poster featuring Barack Obama. The Associated Press charged that since the original photo was theirs, they should be compensated. Fairey eventually agreed that the photo was not his and settled the case. Fairey's work was assumed to be a derivative of the original photo.

This is a worksheet created by stevesimula and licensed with a Creative Commons license on his flickr page.

This case is a good example of transformative use as many parodies were created from the Hope poster. Transformative use is one of the tenets of Fair Use. it allows you to criticize, comment on, and parody works.

....MORE ON ART....

Owned by Teva Hutchinson

"For cryin' out loud, it's just a TV show!" William Shatner (about Star Trek) on Saturday Night Live Dec 1986

Short quotes from shows, skits, movies and songs are free to use. Copyright law states that "slogans, and other short phrases or expressions cannot be copyrighted." See Circular 1 Copyright Basics. Keep in mind that if the quotes are being used for commercial purposes, they should not be lengthy and it may be easier to bypass a lawsuit if no main characters are mentioned in the quote, and if the actor or character is credited for the quote, if the quote has been transformed so it now has a measure of creativity and becomes in itself a copyrighted work.

Peer 2 Peer File Sharing and the DMCA

Peer to peer file sharing refers to digital file sharing between students. Peer to peer file sharing has been used to primarily share music, videos and movies illegally, but it is also used to share e-books, articles, photographs and papers. Peer to peer file sharing is connected to copyright as many copyright holders lose profit because of illegal file sharing. This is such an important issue that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act addresses it and allows the Recording Industries to subpoena persons thought to be in violation.

Molloy College has a statement on peer to peer file sharing. View it on page 39 of the Student handbook.  

Peer to peer technology is available legally and can be used for legal activities such as using Skype to communicate, however if persons on the college campus use it to copy and or distribute files in a way that infringes on the copyright owner’s rights, they are acting illegally and in direct violation of Molloy College policy.

If you have peer to peer file sharing software on your personal computer, be aware that you can be tracked by your ISP to your IP address and charged if you share files that you are not authorized to share. 


The Digital Millennium Copyright Act Title II protects institutions such as Molloy College from liability in the event that when we are informed that students(or any other on campus users) access and/share alleged infringing material. We are required to identify and inform infringers if contacted by recording or other media companies. If charged, infringers can be charged between $750 and $30000 for civil copyright infringement. If the infringement is deemed willful  the charge could go up to $150,000.


To get movies, music, games or other files legally streaming online, please use sites from this extensive list

The Motion Picture of America  and  the RIAA  also provide lists of legal access to copyrighted works.

Works in the public domain or those labeled freeware can be shared using legal P2P networks.

Social Networking and Copyright

Pinterest's Terms of Use and Pintrest on Copyright :-

"You acknowledge and agree that, to the maximum extent permitted by law, the entire risk arising out of your access to and use of the services, pinterest content, and user content remains with you and you use the services at your own risk."

YouTube's Copyright Tips:-

"YouTube will remove videos that infringe on others copyrights. There are companies that check YouTube for works that borrow heavily on, or directly copy their entire work. They then contact YouTube and YouTube will remove your video. You are also responsible for any legal action. They suggest that "if you do plan to use even a small portion of copyright material in your video we'd strongly advise you to take legal advice first."

Facebook on Copyright :-

"If you're not certain that you are legally authorized to use the content, do not upload it to Facebook. If you have done so already, you should remove it. If you don't own the copyright to content you wish to post, posting it without permission of the copyright holder might be a violation of the law."

Google Tracks Take Down requests:-

"Google regularly receives requests from copyright owners and reporting organizations that represent them to remove search results that link to material that allegedly infringes copyrights."

Copyright Trivia for Music Therapy Students

Students who intend to practice Music Therapy may not have thought about copyright, but as Rachelle Norman points out on her website Soundscape Music Therapy (mentioned with her permission), copyright could become important at numerous points of your practice.

Her three part series on Copyright Issues for Music Therapists is quite useful.

Part One: Copyright Basics

Part Two: Work for Hire

Part Three: Infringement, Fair Use and Licensing

It is important to realize how copyright features in your studies, future career, and hobbies. If you are a fan of music check out  this clip featuring Anthony Kelley at the Framed! Conference presenting on the topic 'Great Composers Steal'.