Website Content and Permissions

With the advent of the Internet and the digital age, higher education is being asked to determine how copyright protections apply in a time where creative works are widely available online and the technology to access such material continues to improve. In general, one should treat electronic information with the same consideration as print, audiovisual, or other information when it comes to copyright. However, there are some unique qualities about electronic information that stretch the boundaries of the 1976 copyright law which was designed more for the print environment. That is why Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (PL 105-304), which updates the law to deal with several important issues in the digital environment. This was signed into law by the president on October 28, 1998. For an overview of this new legislation, see the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Overview published by the UCLA Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy. Below is a very brief question and answer followed by links to websites concerning copyright law and website content and permissions. If your concerns are not addressed you are encouraged to contact your campus librarian.

FAQs for Internet Copyright

Does copyright apply to Internet materials?

Yes. Copyright laws are applicable to any original work fixed in a tangible form no matter what the medium is. Print, analog, and digital materials are all protected by copyright. The assumption must be made that the Web site is an original work of authorship which is fixed in HTML coding and is therefore automatically protected by copyright. Further, all of the exclusive rights granted to a copyright owner apply to the owners of web pages.

When I visit a Web page it is copied and stored in my computer's Random Access Memory (RAM) and my browser also makes a copy so I can return to the site faster if indeed I visit it again. Is this sufficient to trigger the copyright statute?

No, because of Implied Consent.Legal scholars argue that that anyone who posts content on the Internet expects people to visit their site. They know that visitors' PCs will make copies in the process, and the Web site host grants visitors an implied license or permission to make those copies.

Am I allowed to post an article from a journal on my faculty webpage for students in my class to access and download? Would this fall under Fair Use?

If the article is not your own work posting it on the Internet for anybody to acces will infringe infringe the copyright of the author. The best way to qualify for Fair Use when you want to post other people's work online is to use a password-protected Web site where only the students enrolled in a class may view the copy.

In general what are the rules that I should abide by when I am creating a web page? What can and what can't I do?

When creating a Web page, you CAN:

  • Link to other Web sites. [However, some individuals and organizations have specific requirements when you link to their Web material. Check a site carefully to find such restrictions. It is wise to ask permission. You need to cite source, as you are required to do in a research paper, when quoting or paraphrasing material from other sources. How much you quote is limited.]
  • Use free graphics on your Web page. If the graphics are not advertised as "free" they should not be copied without permission.

When creating a Web page, you CANNOT:

  • Put the contents of another person's or organizations web site on your Web page
  • Copy and paste information together from various Internet sources to create "your own" document. [You CAN quote or paraphrase limited amounts, if you give credit to the original source and the location of the source. This same principle applies to print sources, of course.]
  • Incorporate other people's electronic material, such as e-mail, in your own document, without permission.
  • Forward someone's e-mail to another recipient without permission
  • Change the context of or edit someone else's digital correspondence in a way which changes the meaning
  • Copy and paste others' lists of resources on your own web page
  • Copy and paste logos, icons, and other graphics from other web sites to your web page (unless it is clearly advertised as "freeware." Shareware is not free). Some organizations are happy to let you use their logos, with permission - it is free advertising. But they want to know who is using it. They might not approve of all sites who want to use their logo.

Adapted and used with permission from the Education and Technology Resources at George Mason University.