Mar 072012
 
Authors: Kate Winkle

Every time a student submits a paper or finalizes a project, he or she produces a unique creative work. But should students and teachers be worried about formally copyrighting major accomplishments to legally protect them?

Linda Schutjer, CSU’s senior associate legal counsel said in an email to the Collegian that this practice is unnecessary. She explained that under U.S. Copyright law, once a creative work is made, it is automatically protected by copyright.

“This means all the materials on the Internet are protected, for example, without any need to file something or even include a copyright notice,” Schutjer said.

“If you do file for protection within three months of creation, you can sue for more money if someone infringes but only book publishers and the like really do that,” she added. “Individuals usually don’t bother.”

According to copyright guidelines on CSU’s Department of External Relations website, if a student’s work is reproduced, modified or incorporated into a publication, written permission from the student must be obtained.

Additionally, Section J of CSU’s Faculty Staff Manual states that professionals affiliated with the university who have been commissioned for a work or have utilized university resources must credit CSU in their works.

“In the interest of encouraging the development of new and useful scholarly material and the publication of such works, the University will continue the tradition of not claiming ownership or a share of the proceeds from scholarly works,” the manual says.

Although copyright is secured automatically upon creation of a unique work, individuals may desire the legal formality of a copyright registration, which establishes a public record of the claim, according to the United States Copyright Office.

The process involves filling out an application and paying a filing fee and a deposit.

“Copyrighting is something I’ve never worried about as a journalist,” said Kris Kodrich, an associate professor in CSU’s journalism department. “The work I’ve done has been covered by the paper and considered copyrighted material that no one can use without permission expect for brief excerpts that have been considered fair use. As an academic, the same strategy applies. It’s nothing I’ve been greatly concerned about.”

Since situations in which copyrighting might be necessary involve protection of creative works, the College of Liberal Arts is most likely to create copyrighted works, according to Schutjer.

Joan Walker is a freshman design and apparel production major who hopes to own her own business and would be concerned about protecting her designs.

“In certain circumstances, (copyrighting) can be necessary, although in this particular field you might run into difficulties because there’s a lot of overlap. I definitely think it could be good, but it’s hard to copyright a generic design (like a skirt with pleats).”

Although material is copyrighted as soon as it is created, people who are concerned about infringement of their work should use caution when sharing it publicly, Kodrich added.

“If they want to be protective of their work, they probably wouldn’t want to put it on YouTube or other sites accessible to everyone,” he said.

Collegian writer Kate Winkle can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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