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Fair Use and Copyright Overview

Copyright Overview
If you are copying or distributing electronic files such as songs, movies, games or software that are copyrighted and you are not paying for them or do not have the owner’s permission, there is a high likelihood that you are violating one or more federal laws.

The length of a copyright is generally the creator’s lifetime plus 70 years. During this time, the copyright owner is the only person authorized to copy, distribute, perform or display it publically or to produce the derivative or adaptive works from it (like turning a book into a movie or song into a video). Also the copyright owner is the only one that can give permission to do any of these things.

The University of South Carolina owns many federally registered trademarks.  Among them are the university's logo and logotype, the Gamecock logo, the Block C with Gamecock logo and the Cocky logo. Use of registered trademarks without the express permission of the University of South Carolina is a violation of federal and state law. Any business or individual who produces commercial items for public view or consumption must be officially licensed. For licensing information, call the Trademark and Licensing Office at 803-777-7313.

Fair Use Overview
“Fair Use” refers to case law that has developed over the years and is now embedded in copyright law. The doctrine of “Fair Use” recognizes that the exclusive right inherent in a copyright are not absolute and that others are entitled to make use of a copyrighted work that technically would otherwise infringe on the copyright owner’s exclusive rights.
When considering the “Fair Use” of a copyrighted work, think about these four factors:

  • The purpose of the use: Is the use commercial in nature or for nonprofit educational purposes? Educational use probably will be considered fair use as long as the other principals of fair use (nature, amount, effect on market) are not violated.
  • The nature of the work: Is the work more factual than creative? The more factual and less creative a work is (e.g. new report vs. short story), the more likely the work will be considered fair use.
  • The amount or substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole: You can only use a small portion of a work, but even if using a small portion, it cannot be considered the most important or key part of the work.
  • The effect on the potential market or profit of the copyrighted work: If the copyright owner suffers any significant monetary damages from a particular use, then the fair use claim would be invalid.
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