The following text is a brochure produced as a service to the academic community by the Educational Uses of Information Technology Program (EUIT) of EDUCOM, and the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). EDUCOM is a non-profit consortium of colleges and universities committed to the use and management of information technology in higher education. ITAA is an industry association for companies which create and market products and services associated with computers, communications and data.
Software enables us to accomplish many different tasks with computers. Unfortunately, in order to get work done quickly and conveniently, some people make and use unauthorized software copies. The purpose of this brochure is to provide a brief outline of what you legally can and cannot do with software. Hopefully it will help you better understand the implications and restrictions of the U.S. Copyright Law.
Here are some relevant facts:
Respect for the intellectual work of others has traditionally been essential to the mission of colleges and universities. As members of the academic community, we value the free exchange of ideas. Just as we do not tolerate plagiarism, we do not condone the unauthorized copying of software, including programs, applications, databases and code.
Therefore, we offer the following statement of principle about intellectual property and the legal and ethical use of software.
Respect for intellectual labor and creativity is vital to academic discourse and enterprise. This principle applies to works of all authors and publishers in all media. It encompasses respect for the right to acknowledgment, right to privacy, and right to determine the form, manner, and terms of publication and distribution.
Because electronic information is volatile and easily reproduced, respect for the work and personal expression of others is especially critical in computer environments. Violations of authorial integrity, including plagiarism, invasion of privacy, unauthorized access, and trade secret and copyright violations, may be grounds for sanctions against members of the academic community.
In terms of copyright, there are four broad classifications of software:
The restrictions and limitations regarding each classification are different.
Commercial software represents the majority of software purchased from software publishers, commercial computer stores, etc. When you buy software, you are actually acquiring a license to use it, not own it. You acquire the license from the company that owns the copyright. The conditions and restrictions of the license agreement vary from program to program and should be read carefully. In general, commercial software licenses stipulate that:
Shareware software is covered by copyright, as well. When you acquire software under a shareware arrangement, you are actually acquiring a license to use it, not own it. You acquire the license from the individual or company that owns the copyright. The conditions and restrictions of the license agreement vary from program to program and should read carefully. The copyright holders for shareware allow purchasers to make and distribute copies of the software, but demand that if, after testing the software, you adopt it for use, you must pay for it. In general, shareware software licenses stipulate that:
Selling software as shareware is a marketing decision; it does not change the legal requirements with respect to copyright. That means that you can make a single archival copy, but you are obliged to pay for all copies adopted for use.
Freeware also is covered by copyright and subject to the conditions defined by the holder of the copyright. The conditions for freeware are in direct opposition to normal copyright restrictions. In general, freeware software licenses stipulate that:
Public domain software comes into being when the original copyright holder explicitly relinquishes all rights to the software. Since under current copyright law, all intellectual works (including software) are protected as soon as they are committed to a medium, for something to be public domain it must be clearly marked as such. Before March 1, 1989, it was assumed that intellectual works were not covered by copyright unless the copyright symbol and declaration appeared on the work. With the U.S. adherence to the Berne Convention this presumption has been reversed. Now all works assume copyright protection unless the public domain notification is stated. This means that for public domain software:
What do I need to know about software and the U.S. Copyright Act?
It's really very simple. The Copyright Law recognizes that all intellectual works (programs, data, pictures, articles, books, etc.) are automatically covered by copyright unless it is explicitly noted to the contrary. That means that the owner of a copyright holds the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute his or her work. For software this means it is illegal to copy or distribute software, or its documentation, without the permission of the copyright holder.
If you have a legal copy of software you are allowed to make a single archival copy of the software for backup purposes. However, the copy can only be used if the original software is destroyed or fails to work. When the original is given away, the backup copy must also be given with the original or destroyed.
If software is not copy-protected, do I have the right to copy it?
Lack of copy-protection does not constitute permission to copy software without authorization of the software copyright owner. "Non-copy-protected" software enables you to make a backup copy. In offering non-copy-protected software to you, the developer or publisher has demonstrated significant trust in your integrity.
May I copy software that is available through facilities on my campus, so that I can use it more conveniently in my own office or room?
Software acquired by colleges and universities is usually covered by licenses. The licenses should clearly state how and where the software may be legally used by members of the relevant campus communities (faculty, staff and students). Such licenses cover software whether installed on stand-alone or networked systems, whether in private offices and rooms, or in public clusters and laboratories. Some institutional licenses permit copying for certain purposes. The license may limit copying, as well. Consult your campus authorities to be sure about the permissible use of a particular software product.
May I loan software?
The 1990 modification to the Copyright Law makes it illegal to "loan, lease or rent software" for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage without the specific permission of the copyright holder. Non-profit educational institutions are exempted from the 1990 modification, so institutional software may be loaned.
Some licenses may even restrict the use of a copy to a specific machine, even if you own more than one system. In general, licenses usually do not allow the software to be installed or resident on more than a single machine, or to run the software simultaneously on two or more machines.
Isn't it legally "fair use" to copy software if the purpose in sharing it is purely educational?
Historically, the Copyright Law was modified to permit certain education use of copyrighted materials without the usual copyright restrictions. However, "fair use" of computer software is still a cloudy issue. The "fair use" amendments to the copyright law are intended to allow educational use of legally protected products, but it is limited (for paper-based products) to small portions of full works.
For most software it is clearly illegal to make and distribute unauthorized, fully-functional copies to class members for their individual use. Making copies of a small section of code from a program in order to illustrate a programming technique might not be a violation. The best alternative is to clear any such use with the copyright owner or consult the appropriate authorities at your institution.
Software can be expensive. You may think that you cannot afford to purchase certain programs that you need. Site-licensed and bulk-purchased software are legal alternatives that make multiple copies of software more affordable. Many educational institutions negotiate special prices for software used and purchased by faculty, staff and students. Consult your campus computing office for information.
As with other software, site-licensed or bulk-purchased software is still covered by copyright, although the price per copy may be significantly lower than the normal commercial price. A usual condition of site-licensing or bulk-purchasing is that copying and distribution of the software is limited to a central office which must maintain inventories of who received it. When you leave the academic community by graduation, retirement, or resignation you may no longer be covered by the institutional agreement and may be required to return or destroy your copies of the software licensed to the institution.
Many colleges sell software through a campus store at "educational discounts." If you purchase software for yourself through such an outlet, the software is yours and need not be destroyed or surrendered when you leave the institution. It is, however, still covered by normal copyright protection and covered by the specific conditions of the licensing agreement.
Restrictions on the use of software are far from uniform. You should check carefully each piece of software and the accompanying documentation yourself. In general, you do not have the right to:
If you have questions not answered by this brochure about the proper use and distribution of a software product, seek help from your computing office, the software developer or publisher, or other appropriate authorities at your institution.
Additional copies of this brochure may be purchased from EDUCOM:
1112 16th Street, NW -- Suite 600,
Washington, DC 20036
Although the brochure is copyrighted, EDUCOM and ITAA authorize and encourage making and distributing copies of it, in whole or in part, providing the source is acknowledged.