Copyright: Introduction

The U.S. Copyright Act and its related laws affect the University community in many different ways. Faculty, administrators, staff and students all confront copyright issues in going about the daily life of the University. Copyright considerations may arise in the context of preparing materials for classroom teaching and readings for students, in showing films on campus and in dormitories, in on-campus performances of music and theater, in listening to music and viewing or downloading materials through your computer, to cite a few of many possible examples. This introduction will direct you to sources for answering some of your copyright questions. There is a great deal of information about copyright available on the Web, and some of the sites that we have found useful are included below for your information. You should feel free to contact Arabella Yip, Associate General Counsel, by email at if you have any questions.

If you are faculty, you may find useful the Yale OGC memo on “Copyright: Academic Copying and Student Course Packets.”  Faculty members should refer to the University’s TEACH Act Guidelines and Fair Use Tool for guidance on posting copyrighted materials on-line.

For information on registering a work with the U.S. Copyright Office, or searching to see if a work is registered with the Copyright Office, please see the official website of that Office,

Students should be aware that the Undergraduate Regulations requires them to adhere to the copyright laws as does the ITS Appropriate Use Policy. Violations of the copyright laws can result in a referral to the Yale College Executive Committee or even in criminal prosecution or civil liability. Students are advised to be particularly conscientious about respecting copyrights in the context of sharing, downloading or copying of music, films or video games over the campus computer network.  Students may only use legitimate commercial options such as iTunes, Napster and Rhapsody. Please refer to the ITS Secure Computing Filesharing overview.

Film Societies and other student groups who organize film viewings on campus must obtain permission (usually for a fee) to do so. This is true regardless of whether the event is free and restricted to limited viewers, such as students in a particular college. There are two major licensing companies for films: Swank Motion Pictures ( and Criterion Pictures USA (, each of which licenses particular titles. The websites for both of these companies allow you to see what films they represent and provide contact information. 

Other useful websites: