Copyright Information

Copyright and Intellectual Property

In today's world, just about everything is copyrighted, whether it carries the copyright symbol © or not. Moreover, under today’s law, materials are protected by copyright as soon as they are completed. Copyright applies broadly to all creative pieces whether written on paper, sculpted in stone, found in cyberspace or created on videotape.

This means that as soon as a document comes out of your computer’s printer, off your drawing board, out of your digital camera, or is posted on your web site, it is copyrighted – even if you do not use the © symbol. If the work was produced as part of your job, then your employer owns it, unless special arrangements were made in advance. This is known as "work for hire."

Everyone else's work is probably copyright protected as well. If you are setting out to "borrow" something from someone, anyone, you need to take the appropriate steps to obtain permission. Failure to do so could lead to a costly court case. Crediting the source is NOT a protection against copyright infringement.

OSU Extension and OARDC materials are copyrighted – that gives us the exclusive right to copy, distribute, modify and display or authorize other people to do so. The 1978 copyright law did not exclude Extension and research stations from copyright protection even though some funds are from federal sources; the law treats these agencies as non-federal operations.


If you have questions about copyright and intellectual property, ask. It is better to make a phone call or send an email than to find out later you made the wrong choice. Contact:

OSU Copyright Resources Center


Permission to Use Copyrighted Materials

If you are employed by OSU Extension, OARDC, or the college and want to use information from one of our publications, you do not have to seek permission. However, acknowledge the source by quoting the author, attributing the material, or citing the origin of the information.

If you wish to use information from research or extension in another state, you must obtain written permission. Even then, you need to acknowledge the source of the material. If you wish to use information from other sources, you must ask and receive permission. Keep a copy of the permission statement in your file. There are narrow exceptions covered by Fair Use and public domain exemptions.

If someone is requesting permission to use Ohio State University Extension or Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center materials, they should be directed to:

CFAES Communications
Dave Scardena


Questions and Answers on Copyright and Intellectual Property

Updated 3/15/04 (Ludwig, Purpus)

  1. Does OSU staff have the same ownership rights as faculty? (Source: Office of Technology Licensing)
    1. Works created by staff or faculty as a part of their normal work assignment, with significant university support or for which Extension paid are considered and will be treated as being fully owned by OSU. These are "work for hire."
    2. Ownership of work created as part of a sponsored program or from a specific assignment will reside with the university and follow University Research policies.
    3. If work is created by the faculty or staff member and it is a work of artistry, academic instruction (example text book) or traditional scholarship, as long as the work was not produced as a part of a sponsored program or as a part of an extension assignment, ownership is with the faculty or staff member. Use of university resources in the creation of these works and arrangements should be approved by the chairperson, dean and other appropriate academic officer(s).
  2. What scholarly creations or creative pieces are included in the intellectual property definition? (Source: Office of Technology Licensing)
    1. Included would be products of university "research" including any discovery, invention, know-how, design, model, work of authorship (including computer software) and any strain, variety or culture of organism or modification, translation or extension of these items.
    2. Examples include: audio and video recording, photographs, anything stored on disk, website, electronic media, written on paper, cast in bronze, sculpted in stone. Software prepared for instructional purposes with the primary expectation of being used with student learning, including adult or continuing education programs.
  3. What does copyright mean? What is the process for a copyright? (Source: – S. McDonald; E. Purpus materials)
    1. Copyright requirements: (1) original (not copied plus a minimal degree of creativity); (2) work of authorship (see item 2 for examples); (3) fixed in a tangible medium of expression.
    2. Copyright notice and registration are NOT required to obtain copyright, nor is publication. Copyright attaches automatically upon creation.
    3. Almost everything is copyrighted, even if it is not labeled.
    4. Damages can be up to $150,000 for each unauthorized use of copyrighted materials.
    5. Copyright protects expression, not the underlying facts or ideas. Plagiarism (or patent infringement) is copying someone else’s facts or ideas or words without crediting the source.
      Crediting the source is NOT a defense against copyright infringement. Note that only expression is protected. Facts, ideas, methods of operation, procedures, processes, concepts, principles, systems and discovery are not copyrightable.
    6. Exclusive Rights of Copyright Owners
      Reproduction in whole or part
      Preparation of derivative works
      Distribution of copies to the public by sale, gift, rental, loan or other transfer
      Public performance of the work
      Public display of the work
      Moral Rights (106A)
  4. When do works transition into the public domain? What is fair use?
    1. A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be freely used by everyone. The reasons the work is not protected include:
      (1) the term of copyright for the work has expired;
      (2) the author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright or
      (3) the work is a work of the U.S. Government. Check the web site: for more information. As a rule of thumb, works that were created and published before 1923 are now in the public domain.
    2. OSU Extension, OARDC and college publications are not in the public domain. 1978 copyright law did not exclude extension and research stations from copyright protection. Even though some funds are from federal sources, the law treats these agencies as non federal operations.
    3. Do not assume that because a work is not labeled or is found on the web that it is in the public domain. Written permission must be obtained to use most web-based or other published materials.
    4. There are narrow "exemptions" for using copyrighted works which include:
      • Fair use
      • Libraries
      • Distance education
    5. Fair Use relates to the purpose and character of the use. It is "fair" if it:
      • Involves only a relatively small portion of the work and
      • Is for educational or noncommercial purposes
      • Unlikely to interfere with the copyright owner’s ability to market the original work
  5. Can electronic files of publications be sold/given to another state? What credit, identification do they need to give OSU Extension?
    1. If selling out of state or marketing for sale publications to a commercial enterprise, work with Technology Licensing on the development of a license agreement with appropriate terms and conditions.
    2. Electronic or print versions should indicate a copyright by OSU and no reproduction without permission by OSU.
  6. What wording should be used when we give or sell pictures or educational materials to other organizations or persons to ensure that they do not sell them to another body as part of their own work?
    1. Copyright OSU and the year.
    2. Keep a record of who took the picture/developed the materials and funding source(s) including grant or contract number if from external source.
  7. Are there sample statements to use for joint copyright? (Example a publication jointly developed by Purdue and OSU.)
    1. This statement would be developed as part of the agreement between institutions.
    2. A "boiler plate" may be developed that can be used, contact OSU Extension Associate Director, Operations and Office of Technology Licensing for assistance.
  8. Can faculty/staff sell a product/creation they produce without the organization’s agreement? University resources and work time were used in part.
    1. No (Ohio Revised Code 3345.14)
    2. If university resources and work time were used in part, then the work belongs to OSU.

Need More Information?

The following references are the basis for this section:

Gasaway, L. (2003). When U.S. Works Pass into the Public Domain. University of North Carolina. Retrieved.

Harper. G. (2001). Copyright Issues in Higher Education. National Association of College and University Attorneys. Washington, D.C.

Ludwig, B. (2003). Questions on Copyright and Intellectual Property. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.

McDonald, S. (2002). Virtual Legality: An Overview of Your Rights and Responsibilities in Cyberspace. Unpublished paper and videotape. The Ohio State University. Columbus, Ohio.

The Office for Technology Licensing. Policy on Patents and Copyright. The Ohio State University. Columbus, Ohio. Retrieved.

United States Copyright Office. Retrieved.

Whiting, L. (2001). Exploring the Mysteries of Copyright. Unpublished paper. Ohio State University Extension. Columbus, Ohio.

(B.Ludwig, 3/2004)