Copyright expert addresses ‘fair use’ to students, faculty


Myra Salcedo

UTPB Librarian Howard Marks (standing left) introduced Attorney and copyright expert Gretchen McCord for a symposium on copyright regulations. Standing Center is John Deats, Director of the Library Learning Resources Center at Midland College. Midland College also hosted McCord for a copyright symposium.

Staff Reports , Staff Reports

In this digital world, what constitutes “free use” of Internet images and writing? When do teachers and students cross the line on copyright law by “borrowing” work? Attorney and copyright expert Gretchen McCord visited The University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) to present a seminar that could direct people into making the right, and ethical, decision. Her visit was provided in conjunction with Midland College (MC). MC presented an additional workshop that was also led by McCord.

McCord presented the “Digital Copyright Symposium” from noon to 2 p.m. in UTPB’s Multi-Purpose Room on Feb. 8.

UTPB J. Conrad Dunagan Director of Library Services Howard C. Marks introduced the attorney as someone that could point educators and students into making “the right decision.”

McCord began with stating to faculty: “I want to address the protection of your work.” She said instructors often ask how many chapters that they can copy from a book or textbook for a class and what constitutes “fair use” for educational purposes only. She described “fair use” as the “safety net” of copyright laws, but noted that instructors should consider: “Did you use more than you needed in order to achieve your purpose?”

“While scholars can “build on others’ works, there are limitations,” she said, noting that defining the terms “fair use” could constitute a “subjective assessment.” In other words, the world of copyright infringement is complex and could be judged on a case-by-case basis.

“You must have a modicum of creativity to require a copyright,” McCord stated, noting that inventions, discoveries, and academic writings are protected for a limited amount of time. Some facts and ideas cannot be protected, including those created by federal agencies, she stated.

In addition, there are a number of years in which work can be protected.

McCord then answered many questions from the UTPB students, faculty and staff that attended the event, which included a buffet luncheon.

“Attorney/librarian Gretchen McCord’ s two-day, and free-of-charge workshop covered copyright, fair use and making simplicity out of complex distance learning legal issues. She brought a plethora of positive experience and energy to the presentation. As a professional in today’s digital world and educator, it is important to know how to properly protect yourself and your university from copyright infringement. Gretchen showed us how to do that in about two hours,” stated UTPB Director of Library Services Howard Marks who is also co-writing the article “Copyright And New Media Law” with Midland College Library Director John Deats. It will be titled: “Collaborating on Copyright – ‘Doing The Right Thing’ in the Permian Basin.”