Take home message: Copyright is a form of legal protection that allows authors, photographers, composers, and other creators to control some reproduction, distribution and use of their work. When we use the work of others, we must ensure we respect their rights and use their work lawfully; and when we act as a conduit for information (such as through our IT infrastructure) or host or facilitate access to information, we must do what we can to make sure we are not implicated in any copyright infringement by other people.

U-M Policy and helpful links

  • The University Copyright Office, within the U-M Library, exists to help all faculty, staff and students navigate the world of copyright. Their Copyright website contains a lot of information about using copyrighted materials, fair use (such as for educational purposes), requesting permission to use content, U-M held copyright and file sharing.
  • Some Copyright Basics (see the Copyright Office website for more information):
    • “Work” that is protected by copyright includes literature, music, painting, photography, dance, and other forms of creative expression – provided they are original, creative, works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression (such as written on a piece of paper, saved electronically, or recorded on audio or video tape). Copyright doesn’t protect facts, ideas, processes or systems, or anything that has become part of the public domain.
    • The protection that copyright provides is an exclusive right to “copy” the work – that is, to reproduce, distribute, publicly display or perform, and prepare derivatives or adaptations of a work (such as translations, dramatizations or musical arrangements) – or to authorize other people to “copy” the work.
    • You can only use the copyrighted work of others with their permission, or under some legal limitation – such as fair use for educational purposes.
  • When you create work on behalf of U-M: The Policy on Who Owns Copyright at or in Affiliation with the University of Michigan (SPG 601.28) sets out U-M’s principles related to the copyrighted work of faculty, staff, and students, as well as work by independent contractors or other non-employees.
  • If you are involved in teaching: refresh yourself on the legal limits of how you can and cannot use or hand out materials in your classes (or post them on Canvas) by reviewing the Copyright Office’s page on using copyrighted materials.
  • It is important that the University respond quickly to any allegations that it has violated someone else’s copyright. If you receive an allegation that U-M has violated copyright through its website or other digital means, refer it immediately to the University’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Agent. For other allegations of copyright infringement (such as those related to the radio station, print media or public performances), contact Jack Bernard in the Office of the General Counsel.
  • U-M’s IT security systems and proper use policies help facilitate compliance with copyright laws. The Responsible Use of Information Resources (SPG 601.07) cites any violation of University or third party copyright as unethical and unacceptable and as grounds for disciplinary action. See also the U-M Network Responsible Use Agreement (for students and other using computing facilities in the U-M residence halls), and the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities (for general information about the expected standards of student conduct).
  • File sharing – The U-M Copyright Compliance site has great resources on how to engage in file sharing lawfully and appropriately.
  • For information about copyright in the U-M context, begin with the U-M Copyright website. The Campus Legal Information Clearinghouse (CLIC), hosted by the Catholic University of America, also has an extensive set of resources on copyright. Another great resource is the University of Texas Crash Course in Copyright.

Things to remember

  • Whether you are an author, a professor, or a student, many occasions will arise when you want to use the copyrighted works of others. It is crucial that you know how to determine whether a work is copyrighted, what fair use means, and how to work out whether permission is required to use something: see the Copyright Office Website for details.
  • If you share files with others, make sure you understand what is lawful and what is not. For instance, using peer-to-peer (P2P) technology is not in itself illegal, but what you share and how you share it may be.  When you upload or distribute copies of copyrighted works OR when you download or acquire unauthorized copies of copyrighted works, you may be infringing someone else’s rights – and could suffer real consequences if you are caught. Peruse the resources on the U-M Copyright Compliance site and on the U-M Copyright Office site about file sharing for guidance.
  • It is important that the University respond quickly to any allegations that it has violated someone else’s copyright. If you receive an allegation that you have infringed copyright through digital media, or a notice requesting that certain copyrighted content be removed from a U-M web site, forward it to U-M’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) agent ( – that will ensure that the allegation is handled, and any infractions are remedied, through U-M’s established procedure. For non-digital copyright infringement allegations, contact Jack Bernard in the Office of the General Counsel.

People to talk to

The U-M Copyright Office is always available to answer questions about copyright – e-mail them, or call them on 734-764-9356, or drop by during their open consultation hours.

U-M Dearborn and U-M Flint faculty and staff are always welcome to contact the Ann Arbor Copyright Office; but in addition, and Mardigan Library at U-M Dearborn provides links and resources relating to copyright for the Dearborn campus.

For potential violations of copyright by the University, including on U-M web sites, contact the University’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) agent (

For legal assistance or advice relating to copyright, contact Jack Bernard in the Office of the General Counsel.

Established 3/4/11, last updated 7/19/18 – Contact us if you believe any information is incorrect or outdated