The fair use exceptions to copyright law are complex and need to be examined in every case in which one person's work includes a portion of another's.
Unless permission is obtained from the copyright owner, the following examples are most likely violations of the United States Copyright laws.
* "I found it on the web, and I work for a University, so it's OK for me to copy that picture for my class syllabus."
Works disseminated electronically are protected by copyright law just as much as anything that appears in print, on the radio or on television.
* "I really want my students to read chapters
3, 17, 21 and 32 of this book. But, it's so
expensive. Rather than have them buy it for $117, I'll just scan those four chapters and put them up on the web."
University faculty, students and staff do not have carte blanche to copy whatever they want for "academic" purposes.
A faculty member could check with the library to determine if the material can be provided via electronic reserve. If this material could not be provided under fair use, the library can inquire whether the publisher may allow access, or in some cases, negotiate the rights to put this information in the Library Electronic Reserve Room.
Another option is to submit the material to the bookstore or a commercial copy service well in advance and request students to purchase the photocopied material, which includes copyright payment.
When information is put on reserve, the library makes certain that doing so abides by copyright law, even if royalties must be paid for the material's use. However, some publishers allow all forms of electronic distribution.
* "Who cares? No one will find out I have Snoopy on my web page."
More and more publishers are indeed cruising the web looking for copyright violations. In fact, some are even writing computer programs that search the web for text, sound files, movie clips and graphic files that are in violation.
* "I wrote that article. Of course, I can put it up on my lab's web page."
You need to check: Does your contract with the publisher assign that company the copyright to your work? Do you own the rights or the on-campus rights?