Copyright Guidelines

It is the intent of Mills College that all members of the college community adhere to the provisions of the United States copyright law. Members of the Mills College community who willfully disregard the copyright policy do so at their own risk and assume all liability. The information included in this document provides guidelines for Mills community members who wish to reproduce, alter, or perform works that are protected by copyright law.

See the text of the Copyright Law of the United States.

Overview of Copyright

Copyright is a form of legal protection designed to promote the progress of science and the arts by securing for an author the benefits of his or her original work of authorship for a limited time. Publication is not essential for copyright protection.

Copyright Act of 1976

Section 106 of the Copyright Act of 1976 generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize any of the following:

  1. Reproduce copies of the work;
  2. Prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work;
  3. Distribute copies of the work by sale, rental, lease, or lending;
  4. Publicly perform the work (in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, choreographic, pantomime, motion picture, or audiovisual work); and
  5. Publicly display the work (in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, choreographic, pantomime, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, motion picture (including individual images), or other audiovisual work). Works that have never been, or are no longer, protected by copyright are in the public domain, and can be copied, republished, or otherwise used.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 does not make changes that affect the fair use section of the 1976 Copyright Act. Nevertheless, the Act does address issues that relate to education. Title II of the DMCA establishes limits on copyright infringement liability for online service providers. Colleges and universities are included in the definition of “online service providers.” The DMCA also amends exemptions for libraries and archives to accommodate digital technologies in the preservation of materials.

Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act

The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 extended copyright terms by 20 years. Prior to this act an author's copyright would last until fifty years after his death. Now copyright lasts until seventy years after the author’s death, and copyrights for works of corporate authorship last 75 to 95 years. The act also affected copyright terms for copyrighted works published prior to January 1, 1978 increasing their term of protection by 20 years as well.

Fair Use

Works that are protected by copyright may often be legally used in a limited way by educators under exemptions commonly referred to as “fair use.”

The Copyright Act of 1976 sought to balance the right of authors to compensation for their creations with the right of the public to use these materials. Embedded in section 107 of the Act, this doctrine is referred to as "fair use." The doctrine of fair use supports the limited copying of copyrighted materials for educational purposes, and is therefore of primary concern to educators.

Four factors must be considered in determining fair use:

  1. the purposes and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. Distribute copies of the work by sale, rental, lease, or lending;
  4. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  5. the effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

The factors should be weighed and a judgment should be determined whether the intended use is within the spirit of the fair use doctrine. In cases of doubt, the permission of the copyright holder should be sought. Faculty members, libraries, and the entire college community share in the responsibility for compliance with fair use provisions of the copyright law. Respect for the intellectual property and creativity of authors is a crucial component in academic discourse. Authors and publishers are entitled to acknowledgment, right of privacy, and the right to determine the manner and terms by which their publications are disseminated. Educational status does not exempt individuals or colleges from liability for multiple or unauthorized copying.

See a fair use checklist created by Kenneth D. Crews (formerly of Columbia University) and Dwayne K. Buttler (University of Louisville) and is shared under a Creative Commons License. CC by 4.0

Public Domain

Public Domain Chart

See a public domain chart which is updated annually in January, provided by Cornell University Library Copyright Information Center, Peter Hirtle is shared under a Creative Commons License. CC by 3.0

Published Works with Expired Copyrights (summary)

In general, copyright for published works expires 95 years after publication date. There are exceptions for works published with or without a copyright notice for certain years as well as the possibility of copyright renewal. For specific cases see the public domain chart.

Unpublished Works

Unpublished works are protected by copyright for the life of the author plus 70 years. Unpublished works that are anonymous, pseudonymous, or have an unknown author’s death date are protected for 120 years from the date of creation.

Government Publications

All US Federal Government publications are not protected by copyright and may be freely copied. Works sponsored by, but not published by, the Federal Government may be protected by copyright. The copyright status of works published by state governments varies from state to state.

Reserve Items

  • The library cannot add more than ten percent of a book as an e-reserve. If you need a longer section, put a copy on print reserve.
  • A complete citation or scan of the title page and verso is required.

Faculty members and the library share the responsibility for complying with copyright law for reserve materials. Items that fall under fair use (see Fair Use) or items not covered by copyright (see Public Domain) may be placed on reserve without obtaining the permission of the copyright holder or paying copyright royalties. The library will not place any items on either print or electronic reserve if it is aware that the material is not in compliance with copyright law.

Consider using material that the library licenses (online journals and e-books) by providing a direct link to appropriate material on your syllabus, Canvas, etc. For information on linking to library database material, see Faculty Resources.

For more information pertaining to course reserve items see Course Reserve Requests.