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Extension Technology and
Computer Services


University of Missouri-Columbia   Extension Technology and Computer Services—ETCS

  July 1999
Vol. 16, No. 5

A Technology Newsletter for Extension Specialists



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Intellectual Property Issues
by Bill McFarland

I want to review with our Extension community of computer users some of the ideas that were so well presented at a recent conference in Kansas City. University Outreach and Extension, MU Direct, ADEC, and the MU conference office facilitated the conference entitled, Intellectual Property Issues in Distance Learning.  It was very well attended - some participants from out of the country. 

Before you skip on to the next article because you think, given my background, this is about copying computer software let me illustrate the issues of intellectual property rights. In surfing the Web you find a neat picture that would be just right for your brochure advertising your program for next month. There is no mention of copyright on the picture, so you assume it is not copyrighted and OK for you to use. WRONG! 

As explained by Kenny Crews, J.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, IU School of Library and Information Science, Associate Dean of the Faculties for Copyright Management, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, all "works fixed in a tangible medium of expression" are copyrighted at the instant they are created. It is automatic and no registration is required. The copyright originates with the author of the work if she/he can show a minimum amount of creativity in the expression. It is the expression that is copyrighted, not the ideas, or facts contained therein. So, no need to ask the question, "Is it copyrighted", because it is.

Dr. Crews went on to explain that the use of copyrighted material in educational settings is often allowable under the Fair Use Statute of the Copyright law. Educational use alone does not make the use fair under the copyright law, however. There are four factors used to determine fair use, as defined in the copyright law. They are:

  • Purpose - the purpose of your use of the copied material

  • Nature - the characteristics of the work being re-used, factual, data, fictional, etc.

  • Amount - the percentage of the whole of the work being re-used

  • Effect - the effect of your re-use on the potential market of the original

Fair use is favored when the purpose is more educational than commercial, the nature of the work is more educational than commercial, the amount is a smaller percentage rather than coping an entire work, and when the effect on the market of the original is negligible. 

Two other points made at the conference that deserve our consideration were that if you use a copy of a work from a web site that is later found to be infringing on a copyright, then you too are guilty of infringement. Second, when publishing photographs of people we should be careful of the right of publicity. This is their right to control their identity. So if they could be identified in your image, your should seek their permission to publish the image.

There are obviously several offices in the University of Missouri more qualified to discuss these matters of copyright than ETCS. The reason that I thought it necessary to bring it up in this newsletter is that we have made it possible, maybe very easy, for our users to get into trouble without knowing it. The Web is full of good things and the digital cameras can take some excellent pictures of people. Please think about your responsibilities as you use these Information Technologies.



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