A copyright policy is a written statement by educational institutions, content sharing websites, and others that states the rights of copyrights created by employees during employment, students in connection with school assignments, and contributors to content on the website. It’s often used in educational settings, such as universities, in order to encourage the free expression of ideas and at the same time protect the rights of the school, faculty, and other staff. Copyrighted material may lead to profits, and a copyright policy often outlines if, when, and how much the income is to be distributed to employees who created the works while working for the employer. Policies are often subject to national copyright laws, which declare ownership and control rights in copyrighted material. Where there are conflicts between the two, the national copyright infringement and copyright enforcement laws override the policy statement.
Schools of higher education often have a statement available for viewing on the school’s website and included in faculty and employee handbooks. A school copyright policy statement often exists in order to encourage students and staff to publish scholarly, artistic, and other works without fear that they will lose copyright ownership to their work. Most policies state the work belongs to the creator, unless it was a work made for hire. That means the school specifically hired the individual to create the work in the first place, and therefore it owns the rights to reproduce it, sell it, or use it as if it were the creator. Another exemption to the general rule that the work belongs to the creator is when someone uses the school's resources substantially in order to create the work.
A website that relies on user-generated content often publishes a copyright policy as well so that users know their rights. It’s common for these types of websites to state that the content shared is either considered public domain or is licensed under a creative commons license. Users often have to sign a license, electronically or by fax or mail, prior to obtaining permission to publish content on the website. A creative commons license allows the public to distribute, transmit, or copy the creator’s work as long as it’s attributed to and in accordance with the author or content website specifications. For example, the website owner or someone else might have to write a byline at the close of the work that includes the author’s name and the statement “By creative commons license.”
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