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Copyright, Fair Use & Digital Rights Management

Resources for those interested in learning more about how copyright law impacts the use of print and digital media within education and workforce preparation settings. Other topics addressed in this section include:

  • The Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act, which makes changes to U.S. copyright law in order to align it with the requirements of the Marrakesh Treaty. The goal of this treaty is to increase access to printed materials to eligible persons around the world by making it easier for accessible versions of these materials to be exchanged across borders.   
  • The fair use exclusion in copyright statute, which permits some limited uses of copyrighted works without the need to secure permission from the copyright holder. The Fair Use: AIM Center Policy Brief may be helpful to educators interested in supporting learners who may benefit from diverse and alternative formats.  
  • Information regarding digital rights management, including the TEACH Act of 2002, which pertains to educational or military distance learning.

Copyright

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.

The Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act

With the president's signing of the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (MTIA) on October 10, 2018, U.S. copyright law is amended to comply with the terms of the Marrakesh Treaty. The goal of this treaty is to make it easier for accessible versions of printed materials to be exchanged across borders in order to address the “global book famine." This is a situation where few published works (1-7% by one estimate from the World Blind Union) ever make it into accessible formats. 

The MTIA makes some changes to U.S. copyright law to bring it into alignment with the language in the Marrakesh Treaty. More specifically, some of the definitions in Section 121 of the Copyright Act (the Chafee Amendment), are amended. Because Section 121 only applies to copyright use within the United States, the MTIA also adds a new Section 121A to address the cross-border aspects of the Marrakesh Treaty. Understanding the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act, from the U.S. Copyright Office, provides a more detailed explanation of the changes the MTIA makes to U.S. copyright law.

For more on the Marrakesh Treaty and the MTIA, please see:

Fair Use

Educators often refer to the “fair use” exclusion in copyright statute as a means to provide materials to students who cannot use print-based materials effectively; however, the term and the exclusion are often used without sufficient knowledge of the elements upon which “fair use” is based. The four elements of “fair use” included in Section 107 of U. S. copyright code should be understood along with the limitations that apply to its use.

Digital Rights Management

Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies attempt to control what can and cannot be done with media and hardware.

Chafee Amendment

Copyright Law Amendment allowing authorized entities to reproduce previously published work for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.

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Fair Use

Fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research is not an infringement of copyright.

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Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Authorizing technologies implemented by rights holders and publishers to limit the distribution and use of proprietary content.

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Technology

Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.

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