Copyrighted Materials


This policy applies to the use of copyrighted works (in all formats, including digital) for teaching, research, administrative, and other purposes by all academic and administrative units, faculty, staff, administrators, and students on all campuses and at other locations of George Mason University.


It is the policy of George Mason University to comply with federal copyright law and all related law codified at 17 U.S.C. §101 et seq.  All faculty, staff and students must adhere to University copyright policy.  The University Copyright Officer (in the University Libraries’ Mason Publishing Group) provides guidance on use of the copyrighted works of others and rights management of scholarly and artistic work created by faculty, staff and students.

In recognition of its mission to further teaching, learning and research and engage in public service, the University is committed to fostering an environment that provides for the fair use of copyrighted works to achieve these goals while remaining in compliance with applicable laws. University users of copyrighted works are accorded the rights and privileges pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §§107 (Fair Use), 108 (Reproduction by Libraries and Archives), 109 (First Sale Doctrine and Transfers), 110 (Teaching Exception) and other statutory exemptions and limitations to the exclusive rights granted to the owner of a copyright protected work.  The University policy is to not unduly restrict the use of works otherwise permitted under law.

It is the policy of the University to inform and educate faculty, students and staff regarding federal copyright law, the rights of copyright owners, the legal obligation of the University to comply with applicable law, and the rights of the University community to use copyrighted works.  To this end, the Copyright Office will provide training sessions, consultation, and other resources to educate the University community and to facilitate copyright permission and/or royalty payment activities, and assist in rights management of scholarly and artistic works created by faculty and students.  Faculty, schools and programs are encouraged to anticipate the need for copyright education for students programmatically and to coordinate with the Copyright Officer to integrate orientation on copyright issues in programs for students and faculty, in recognition of the role of copyright in the creation of the scholarly record, and that effective management positively impacts the scholarly communications environment.

Procedures and Guidelines regarding the use of copyrighted works are established by the University unit responsible for the provision of the service in question in consultation with the Copyright Officer, University Libraries.  For example, Print Services for the production of course packs follows the Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Use, as included in the House Report accompanying the 1976 Copyright Act; the Libraries have developed procedures for operating print/media course reserves, electronic reserves services and interlibrary loan services; pursuant to the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act) of 2002, the Copyright Officer has established procedures for web course development; the University IT Security Office has established “Stopit” procedures for claims of illegal use of computer resources and networks; and pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, the Copyright Officer has been designated by the University and registered with the Library of Congress as the “university agent” authorized to receive notification of claimed infringements of copyright.


Copyright: Refers to the set of exclusive rights granted to the creator of an original “work of authorship” in any form by the federal Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. §§101 et seq.).  These rights include reproduction, distribution, performance, display, and creation of derivative works.  These rights are not unlimited; exemptions and limitations pursuant to the statute provide for uses of copyrighted works in specific circumstances.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA): A 1998 amendment to the Copyright Act of 1976, establishes certain limitations of copyright infringement liability for online service providers (OSPs), including colleges and universities, when certain requirements are met by the OSP.  The Act contains a number of other provisions including prohibitions on circumvention of technological protection measures among others.  The DMCA requires the University to register an agent designated to receive notices of alleged infringement and to take certain actions in response such notice in order to take advantage of the limitations on liability.

TEACH Act: The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (2002) Act updates copyright law for distance education.  If numerous and specific requirements are met by the individual faculty member and the institution, the Act permits the digital transmission of copyrighted works for educational purposes without obtaining permissions in limited situations.

Exemption or Limitation: Statutory limitations on a copyright owner’s exclusive rights regarding an original “work of “authorship.”  These limitations include fair use and library and educational uses when certain criteria are met. 17 U.S.C. §§107,108,109, and 110 provide for and define the extent of these limitations.

Fair Use: Provided for in 17 U.S.C. §107, fair use is determined by examining four factors; the purpose of the use, the nature of the work used, the amount of the work used, and the effect the use will have on the potential market for the work.  All four factors must be examined before a “good faith” determination can be made regarding the fair use of a copyrighted work.

Infringement of Copyright: The unauthorized use of copyrighted works in violation of the exclusive rights granted to the author of an original work.

Work of Authorship: Includes literary works, musical works, dramatic works, pantomimes and choreographic works, graphical works, motion pictures, sound recordings, architectural works, computer software, and other any medium of expression now known or later developed.  Given the very broad definition and the fact that copyright attaches as soon as the work is fixed, users should assume that nearly all works are protected by copyright.  (Notable exception: Public domain materials may not be copyrighted; e.g., government publications.)


Policy Administrator: The Copyright Officer, University Libraries is responsible for administering this policy and, in consultation with the Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs, for interpreting policy as it applies to claims of alleged copyright infringement.  The Copyright Officer is responsible for the periodic review and revision of this policy.

Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs: The Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs is responsible for consulting with and advising the University Copyright Officer regarding legal issues and actions related to this policy and for the review and approval of revisions to this policy.

Computer Security Review Panel: This University committee is responsible for interpreting the Responsible Use of Computing Policy and for consulting with the Copyright Officer to resolve cases involving the use of University computing resources and networks for unauthorized use of copyrighted works and subsequent claims of copyright infringement.

Information Technology Services: System administrators and technology engineers are responsible for consulting with and assisting the Copyright Officer with technology issues when an individual allegedly has used University computer resources and the networks for the unauthorized download or sharing of copyrighted works.


Faculty, staff and students who willfully and with knowledge violate the University Copyright Policy may place themselves individually at risk for liability in the event of a claim of copyright infringement.  In such cases, the University may refuse to defend and indemnify an employee named in an infringement of copyright action. When University computer resources and networks have been used to illegally download or share files, the University may block an individual’s access to the University network.


This policy is effective July 1, 2003 and shall be reviewed and modified or amended periodically as necessary to reflect change in applicable law. All revisions to the policy will be made in consultation with the Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs.


Senior Vice President


Date approved: July 28, 2003

Revised February 16, 2017

Revised June 1, 2021