Fundamentals of Copyright

Download a series of podcasts of Kenneth Crews discussing copyright law. Each podcast is typically about 15 minutes in length, and the series is especially suited for giving members of the academic community a guide to the fundamentals of copyright for teaching, research, and other pursuits. These podcasts were prepared with the assistance of Neil Wehneman, creator of For more information, read the podcast instructions, below.

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Download Individual Files

You can download the audio files one at a time using the links below.


Dr. Crews gives a high-level overview of copyright law. Essentially, the law gives specific rights to the holder of a copyright and then carves out certain exceptions. Copyright is granted automatically to a wide range of works, and lasts for a very long time. Download MP3 file.

Basic Mantra and Some Exclusions

Dr. Crews looks at the basic mantra of copyright: copyright applies instantly and automatically to original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Some of the exclusions from copyright are examined, such as facts, ideas, and works of the federal government that are outside the scope of copyright protection. Download MP3 file.

Duration of Copyright 1

Copyright lasts for a very long time. For works created after 1977, the term of copyright is life of the author plus seventy years. However, previous copyright acts had different rules, and those rules will affect the duration of pre-1978 works. Dr. Crews also mentions joint authorship. Download MP3 file.

Duration of Copyright 2

The duration of a copyright is treated slightly differently if the work is a “work made for hire.” Dr. Crews defines “work made for hire,” and looks at the specific issues regarding these works. Download MP3 file.

The Five Exclusive Rights and Moral Rights

The core of copyright revolves around the five exclusive rights. These rights include the right of reproduction, distribution, public display, public performance, and the creation of derivative works. The concept of “moral rights” is also discussed. Download MP3 file.

Fair Use 1

The “exclusive rights” of copyright aren’t exactly exclusive. There are numerous exceptions and limitations to these rights, with fair use being the most important of these. In this first episode on fair use, Dr. Crews examines the four statutory factors of fair use. Download MP3 file.

Fair Use 2

Dr. Crews examines two actual court cases applying fair use. The first case concerns photocopying by Kinko’s, and the second case concerns 2 Live Crew’s parody of the song “Pretty Woman.” Download MP3 file.

Fair Use 3

Fair use provides guidelines, but very few hard and fast rules. As an example, sometimes using large amounts of a copyrighted work (perhaps even all of the copyrighted work) will qualify as fair use, while sometimes using only a small amount of a copyrighted work will not qualify as fair use. As several cases show, the key is that all four of the factors must be considered. Download MP3 file.

Fair Use 4

Dr. Crews reviews and wraps up fair use. Additionally, he discusses hard and fast “guidelines” that are often promulgated in the fields of education and libraries. Download MP3 file.

Other Limitations and Exceptions

Fair use is not the only limitation or exception to the exclusive rights of copyright. Dr. Crews discusses several other limitations and exceptions. Download MP3 file.

Non-Copyright Concerns

Copyright is not the only law you have to be aware of when considering whether or not to use a work. Patents, trademarks, trade secrets, contracts, and other issues may provide an additional “layer of protection” beyond copyright. Download MP3 file.

When making use of this page under the terms of the CC license, please include this form of attribution: "Used under a Creative Commons BY-ND license from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University, Kenneth D. Crews, director."  If your needs for the material are outside the scope of the license, please consider fair use or simply asking us for permission.