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Copyright at JMU

A guide to copyright at James Madison University

Is it in Copyright?

Works published before 1st January 1923 are in the public domain. The situation is slightly different for unpublished works (for example, a letter or journal), where the duration of copyright is the life of the author + 70 years (in other words, copyright endures for 70 years after the author's death). Works published between 1st January 1923 and 1st January 1978 may still be in copyright, if the copyright was renewed. At this time, for ease of purpose, it is safest to simply assume that copyrighted work, published after 1st January 1978, is still in copyright.

How to determine the copyright duration for a work?

Cornell University's Copyright Information Center provides a straightforward overview of the duration of copyright, organized by status (published / unpublished / work for hire) and by date.

Is it Still in Copyright? Charts & Tools provided by Stanford University Libraries includes flow charts and "computators" for determining the copyright status of a work, including images.

Public domain works

Repositories of sources in the public domain include HathiTrust Digital Library and the Internet Archive

If, for example, we look for the Wind in the Willows in HathiTrust, the full-text can easily be found; published in 1908, it is now in the public domain, as are the illustrations from that edition.

Sometimes published works are released into the public domain at the time of publication. Additionally, publications of the United States Government are always in the public domain.

Creative Commons licensed content

Works distributed under a Creative Commons ("CC") license remain the copyright of their author, but the author has granted a license allowing reuse. The particular license accorded to a work determines how the work may be reused. A guide to available CC licenses can be found here.


Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike This CC license icon denotes an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. The licensed work can be reproduced and edited, but not for commercial gain; the original source of the work must be credited; the derivative work can only be distributed under an identical CC license.

Fair Use in Scholarship

The four factors that comprise the Doctrine of Fair Use apply to scholarship, just as they apply to teaching (as discussed in the Using Copyrighted Materials section of this guide). However, scholarship naturally broadens the application beyond the distribution of copyrighted material. Examples of such expanded use in scholarship may include the preservation of material, or the use of other copyright holders' work to provide illustration or facilitate discussion in the author's own work. At the heart of this question is the "transformative" use of the copyrighted work. How has the source material been used in new, innovative, or unexpected ways to advance scholarship?

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication, provided and maintained by the School of Communication at American University, Washington D.C., provides an excellent overview of this issue, along with guidelines for ensuring compliance with the Doctrine of Fair Use. Although created for scholars in the discipline(s) of communication, the best practices described are interdisciplinary, and apply to any scholar relying on fair use to lawfully reproduce the copyrighted work of others in pursuit of scholarship.

More Information on Fair Use - a guide provided by the U.S. Copyright Office

Fair Use and Copyrighted Material - a guide provided by Harvard Law School

Disclosing Inventions and Creative Works at JMU

If, during the course of your work at JMU, you have created a new invention of any sort, or have produced innovative, original work, it is very important that you submit a Disclosure Form to Technology Innovation and Economic Development at JMU. Your disclosure will then be reviewed by JMU's Intellectual Property Committee, which will report back to you after reaching a decision about your Disclosure.

Examples of the types of work that merit a Disclosure include, but are not limited to, the following (as described by Technology Innovation and Economic Development at JMU):

An invention is generally described as any new and useful process including computer programs, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter, or related improvement. The process of invention includes conception of the invention and reduction to practice showing the invention obtains desired results. In order for an invention to be patentable it must have utility (be useful), it must be novel (new and original), and it must be non-obvious to one of ordinary skill in the field. An invention may also be a copyrightable creative work. Copyrightable creative works include applications for smart devices (e.g., iPhone or iPad apps), online textbooks, websites, questionnaires, survey instruments, and videos.

For an informal discussion about the necessity of submitting a Disclosure for your project or artifact, please feel free to schedule a consultation with Howard S. Carrier.