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Copyright Policy

Copyright protection gives authors and inventors exclusive right to control the use by others of their products and discoveries. Copyrighted works may not be reproduced, displayed publicly or performed without permission of the copyright owner. Protected works include literary, dramatic, musical, choreographic, pictorial, graphic, audiovisual and other types of works. Those who engage in unauthorized reproduction, performance or distribution of copyrighted work may be subject to civil and criminal penalties.

Exemptions to the copyright holders' exclusive rights are provided for "fair use" purposes such as teaching, research and scholarship, in the 1976 Copyright Law, described below. In addition, The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 and the TEACH (Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization) Act of 2002 have updated laws in response to new technologies.

SUNY Potsdam faculty, students, administrators and other staff members must comply with Copyright Law. Guidelines regarding specific aspects of copyright compliance are maintained by departments whose functions are significantly impacted by Copyright Law.

Fair Use

When the Copyright Law of the United States was enacted in 1976, the doctrine of "fair use" was given statutory recognition in Section 107. Specifically, balanced consideration of four fair use factors is used to determine eligibility for the exemption:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (

With changing technologies, Congress made substantial revisions to the Copyright Law with the passing of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998. DCMA Title II provides limits on the liabilities of online service providers (OSPs) when infringing content is transmitted by a user and when infringing stored content is removed expeditiously when the service provider is formally notified.


As required by the DMCA, the TEACH Act (2002) provides the legal framework for nonprofit educational institutions to extend some provisions used in face-to-face teaching to the online education. Fair use is more narrowly defined in the online environment and the TEACH Act requires that institutions taking advantage of its exemptions meet specific requirements in the design and delivery of online courses and course materials.

Learn more about copyright and fair use.

SUNY Potsdam Guidelines

The College strives to provide appropriate education about copyright to faculty, staff and students to facilitate their good faith efforts to achieve compliance. Guidelines regarding the following are maintained and kept current by specific departments whose operations are affected by particular aspects of copyright law.

Please contact the College Communications Office regarding any copyright violations. Incidents will be addressed on an individual basis as required by law. Email or call (315) 267-2114. This policy was approved on September 19, 2007.