Copyright Policy

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This site serves as a clearinghouse of copyright resources for The Cooper Union community. The content included here is designed to help faculty, students, and staff develop a shared understanding of copyright in support of their teaching, learning, research, and creative endeavors. Links to approved copyright policies and other copyright and fair-use-related materials are provided.



The Cooper Union is obligated by federal law to inform its students of its policies and sanctions related to copyright infringement. Unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing (e.g., using BitTorrent to obtain/distribute music or movies) may subject students to civil and criminal penalties,  sanctions arising from a violation of Cooper Union's Code of Conduct, and loss of internet services provided by the Cooper Union IT Department. Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney's fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights. Willful infringement may also result in imprisonment of up to ten years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense.  For more information, please see the website of the U.S. Copyright Office at , especially their FAQ’s at Copyright and Digital Files (FAQ) | U.S. Copyright Office


Marget Long, Director of Web Development and Design
Lisa Norberg, Library Director
Robert Reinckens, Chief Technology Officer
Antoinette (Toni) Torres, Vice-President Institutional Effectiveness



The policies listed below are under review and will be posted once approved.

Copyright Infringement Policy
Educational and Research Use Policy
Acceptable Use Policy




The following definitions are taken from the U.S. Copyright Office.


A form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for "original works of authorship", including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. "Copyright" literally means the right to copy but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery. Similarly, names, titles, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, and listings of contents or ingredients are not subject to copyright.

Author Under copyright law, the creator of the original expression in a work is its author. The author is also

the owner of copyright unless there is a written agreement by which the author assigns the copyright to another person or entity, such as a publisher. In cases of works made for hire, the employer or commissioning party is considered to be the author.

Copyright Notice

A copyright notice is an identifier placed on copies of the work to inform the world of copyright ownership that generally consists of the symbol or word “copyright (or copr.),” the name of the copyright owner, and the year of first publication, e.g., ©2008 John Doe. While use of a copyright notice was once required as a condition of copyright protection, it is now optional. Use of the notice is the copyright owner's responsibility and does not require advance permission from, or registration with, the Copyright Office. See Circular 3, Copyright Notice, for requirements for works published before March 1, 1989, and for more information on the form and position of the copyright notice. Copyright Infringement As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner. Peer-to-peer (P2P) Networking A type of network where computers communicate directly with each other, rather than through a central server. Often referred to simply as peer-to-peer, or abbreviated P2P, a type of network in which each workstation has equivalent capabilities and responsibilities in contrast to client/server architectures, in which some computers are dedicated to serving the other computers. A "network" is a group of two or more computer systems linked together by various methods. In recent usage, peer-to-peer has come to describe applications in which users can use the Internet to exchange files with each other directly or through a mediating server. Public Domain? The public domain is not a place. A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner. Work Made for Hire Although the general rule is that the person who creates the work is its author, there is an exception to that principle; the exception is a work made for hire, which is a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or a work specially ordered or commissioned in certain specified circumstances. When a work qualifies as a work made for hire, the employer, or commissioning party, is considered to be the author. See Circular 30, Work-Made-For-Hire Under the 1976 Copyright Act. Exclusive rights of the copyright owner (section 106, title 17, U.S. Code):

1. To reproduce the work

2. To prepare derivative works

3. To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale, rental, lease, or lending

4. In the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures, and other audiovisual works, to perform the work publicly

5. In the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly

6. In the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission

Fair Use

Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use. Section 107 calls for consideration of the following four factors in evaluating a question of fair use:

1. Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes: Courts look at how the party claiming fair use is using the copyrighted work, and are more likely to find that nonprofit educational and noncommercial uses are fair. This does not mean, however, that all nonprofit education and noncommercial uses are fair and all commercial uses are not fair; instead, courts will balance the purpose and character of the use against the other factors below. Additionally, “transformative” uses are more likely to be considered fair. Transformative uses are those that add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and do not substitute for the original use of the work.

2. Nature of the copyrighted work: This factor analyzes the degree to which the work that was used relates to copyright’s purpose of encouraging creative expression. Thus, using a more creative or imaginative work (such as a novel, movie, or song) is less likely to support a claim of fair use than using a factual work (such as a technical article or news item). In addition, use of an unpublished work is less likely to be considered fair.

3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole: Under this factor, courts look at both the quantity and quality of the copyrighted material used. If the use includes a large portion of the copyrighted work, fair use is less likely to be found; if the use employs only a small amount of copyrighted material, fair use is more likely. That said, some courts have found use of an entire work to be fair under certain circumstances. And in other contexts, using even a small amount of a copyrighted work was determined not to be fair because the selection was an important part—or the “heart”—of the work.

4. Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work: Here, courts review whether, and to what extent, the unlicensed use harms the existing or future

market for the copyright owner’s original work. In assessing this factor, courts consider whether the use is hurting the current market for the original work (for example, by displacing sales of the original) and/or whether the use could cause substantial harm if it were to become widespread.

In addition to the above, other factors may also be considered by a court in weighing a fair use question, depending upon the circumstances. Courts evaluate fair use claims on a case-by-case basis, and the outcome of any given case depends on a fact-specific inquiry. This means that there is no formula to ensure that a predetermined percentage or amount of a work—or specific number of words, lines, pages, copies—may be used without permission.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA)

In 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which amended U.S. copyright law to address important parts of the relationship between copyright and the internet. The three main updates were (1) establishing protections for online service providers in certain situations if their users engage in copyright infringement, including by creating the notice-and-takedown system, which allows copyright owners to inform online service providers about infringing material so it can be taken down; (2) encouraging copyright owners to give greater access to their works in digital formats by providing them with legal protections against unauthorized access to their works (for example, hacking passwords or circumventing encryption); and (3) making it unlawful to provide false copyright management information (for example, names of authors and copyright owners, titles of works) or to remove or alter that type of information in certain circumstances.

DMCA Designated Agent

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) provides safe harbors from copyright infringement liability for online service providers. To qualify for safe harbor protection, certain kinds of service providers—for example, those that allow users to post or store material on their systems, and search engines, directories, and other information location tools— must designate an agent to receive notifications of claimed copyright infringement. The Designated Agent for The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art is Robert Rieckens.




In order to receive a Cooper Union computer account, a student is required to sign a document provided by the IT Department in which they promise to respect the rights of copyright holders. While the IT Department does not monitor its networks for content, it may monitor the volume of use (bandwidth) for each computer on its networks. A student who is using excessive bandwidth may have his or her internet access reduced or terminated.

Students should be aware that representatives of copyright holders routinely search the internet for infringers, resulting in lawsuits being filed against students. Such lawsuits may be very expensive to settle. Copyright holders have frequently filed notices of copyright violations directly with The Cooper Union, which requires the school to take immediate action to eliminate infringement.

The IT Department advises against installing and/or leaving file-sharing programs on any computer attached to a Cooper Union network. While there are legitimate reasons for using such programs (e.g., the distribution of non-copyrighted software), by operating "silently" they may put the owner of the computer in the position of distributing infringing files and being liable for such distribution, even though he or she has no intent of doing so.




What Is Copyright?

The simplest definition of copyright is a form of legal protection given to authors who produce an original
creative work in some kind of fixed form. Examples include:
• Literary works
• Musical works, including any accompanying words
• Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
• Pantomimes and choreographic works
• Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
• Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
• Sound recordings, which are works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or
other sounds
• Architectural works
The statutory basis of copyright is found in Title 17 of the United States Code.
How Is a Work Copyrighted?
While you can file paperwork with the Copyright Office, it’s not necessary. As long as the work is original,
creative, and in a tangible medium of expression, the author or creator is protected under copyright.

What Does Copyright Protect?

Copyright gives the author of a creative work an assortment of rights, including the:
• right to reproduce
• right to make derivative works
• right to distribute copies of a work
• right to perform a work publicly
• right to display a work publicly
• for sound recordings, the right to perform the work by digital audio transmission

What Does Copyright Not Protect?

Copyright does not protect such things as:
• ideas
• procedures
• processes
• systems
• methods of operation
• concepts
• principles
• names
• titles
• short phrases

Are There Other Limits to Copyright?

Even though copyright offers authors strong protections over their works, there are exceptions. "Fair use" is
one of the most important of these.

Fair Use is another legal framework that supports the idea that some uses of a work should be allowed even
though they may be contrary to the interests of the author or copyright owner. Fair use allows a copyrighted
work to be used in ways that benefit society.

There are four factors that determine whether the use of a copyrighted work is “fair use”:
Factor 1: "The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is
for nonprofit educational purposes"
Factor 2: "The nature of the copyrighted work"
Factor 3: "The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole"
Factor 4: "The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work"
Since Fair Use is often determined by a review of the relevant case law and precedent, the U.S. Copyright
Office provides a continually updated index of lawsuits addressing fair use.

Is Copyright the Same as Plagiarism?

It is important to understand the distinction between plagiarism and copyright. Plagiarism is the failure to
give proper attribution to an author or creator's work when you use thoughts, words, or ideas expressed in
that work. Copyright infringement, on the other hand, is using some or all of a copyrighted work without the
original author or creator's permission or without an exception like Fair Use that permits such use.
While copyright infringement may overlap with plagiarism, the two concepts are different. Providing
attribution to or citing an author or creator’s work does not protect you from violating the author's copyright.
Similarly, just because copyright law might allow you to make certain uses of another person's work, it does
not mean that such a use would not be considered plagiarism.
It can be complicated, so the best way to avoid both plagiarism and copyright infringement is to always
provide attribution for the source of a work and consider whether you have a right to use a work under
copyright law.

If you need help in properly citing sources or providing proper attribution, please contact the Cooper Union
Library at

For more information on Copyright or Fair Use, please see the U.S. Copyright Office at

Cooper Union Policies:
• Copyright Infringement (see tab above)
• Educational and Research Use of Copyrighted Materials (see tab above)


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.