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Copyright at Kettering University

Guide to copyright and what is means for Kettering University students, faculty and staff.

What is Copyright?

"Copyright is the exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise exploit a literary, musical or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc."( This means that in order to be entitled to copyright protection, the work has to be something you created (and didn't copy from another work) and set down in some physical form, like in writing, on videotape, in a sound recording, in a computer program or on a computer screen.

The creator of a work is protected by copyright for the following:

  • Distribution 
  • Reproduction 
  • Display
  • Performance of the work
  • Creation of derivative works

For more details about what each of these five areas of copyright mean, please see this PDF available free through the World Intellectual Property Organization © WIPO, 2016.

© 2019, The Copyright Society of the USA. Copyright Terms & Definitions. (n.d.). Retrieved June 17, 2019, from
Copyright. (n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2019, from

Kettering's Copyright Policy

For Kettering University's full copyright policy, approved by the Executive Committee of the Kettering University Board of Trustees, please see the following link: 

Copyright Policy of Kettering University

How long does Copyright Last?

The term of copyright for a particular work depends on several factors, including whether it has been published, and, if so, the date of first publication. As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. After this time has expired, copyright can be reapplied for if desired. 


For an anonymous work, or a work created by an employee for their job, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first. For works first published prior to 1978, the term will vary depending on several factors. To determine the length of copyright protection for a particular work, consult chapter 3 of the Copyright Act (title 17 of the United States Code).More information on the term of copyright can be found in Circular 15a (How Long Does Copyright Last, 2019). 

How Long Does Copyright Protection Last? (n.d.).  Retrieved June 12, 2019, from

Public Domain

The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.

There are four common ways that works arrive in the public domain:

  • the copyright has expired (if published before 1924 and copyright not renewed)
  • the copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules
  • the copyright owner deliberately places it in the public domain, known as “dedication,” or
  • copyright law does not protect this type of work.

Every country has its own rules about when a copyrightable work enters the public domain. Be sure to check copyright policy if you are working outside of the United States, as it may vary from from what is discussed in this guide. 

For more details about public domain, please see this site (Welcome to the Public Domain, 2019). 

© 2005–2019 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University.  Welcome to the Public Domain. (2019, April 24). Retrieved July 12, 2019, from

Fair Use

"Fair Use" is the right of the public to make reasonable use of copyrighted material in special circumstances without the copyright owner's permission. The United States Copyright Act recognizes that fair use of a copyrighted work may be used "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research."

Apply the following test when deciding if Fair Use applies to your situation:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is for a commercial purpose or is for non-profit educational purposes
  • What kind of work is the copyrighted work (for instance, is it creative or factual)
  • The amount and importance of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • The effect of the use upon the potential commercial market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Fair Use is not always straight forward, and it is better to be cautious when a concern over whether an item qualifies or not arises. Where there is doubt about whether something qualifies for the fair use exception, you should request a license from the copyright holder (Copyright Terms & Definitions, 2019).

If you have any questions or concerns about whether or not fair use applies to the work you would like to use, please do not hesitate to contact Kettering University Legal Staff for assistance. 

Learn more about Fair Use and Intellectual Property in the United States Constitution here

© 2019, The Copyright Society of the USA.  Copyright Terms & Definitions. (n.d.).  Retrieved June 17, 2019, from

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