Skip to Main Content

Copyright at the University of Northern Iowa


The purpose of this guide is to provide faculty, staff, and students at University of Northern Iowa with an understanding of copyright law and fair use as applied to the University of Northern Iowa resources.

While copyright issues can be complex, everyone needs to understand the basics. Failure to comply with copyright law can lead to substantial legal penalties for both you and the university. This site is not intended to provide legal advice. Legal advice for your particular needs should be obtained from a licensed attorney.

Copyright Law Defined

The basic function of copyright is to promote creativity by assigning rights to creators which protect their work while at the same time facilitating public access to the copyrighted works.

Copyright is a form of intellectual property protection provided by the law of the United States (Title 17, US Code) to authors of original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright arises automatically as soon as the work is fixed and does not require publication or registration. Registration can enhance the rights, however,  by ensuring there is a public record of the certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation.  Copyright does not exist: for facts or ideas, materials lacking in originality, or for works created by federal government employees within the scope of their employment.

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

-reproduce the work
-prepare derivative works
-distribute copies of the work
-publicly perform the work
-publicly display the work directly or by telecommunication, and
-publicly perform a sound recording by digital means.

Copyright law provides a balance between the promotion of creativity by assigning rights to the creators which protect their work (Title 17, US Code) while at the same time facilitating public access to the copyrighted works (Fair Use). Copyright law is open to interpretation by the courts which play an important role in interpreting copyright principles.

Review these frequently asked questions for answers about copyright.

Copyright on Campus Video by Copyright Clearance Center