How often do you use copyrighted materials in your teaching? I know how I would answer this question, but to obtain a little broader prospective, I did a quick scan through the syllabi of our first and second year basic science courses. Not surprisingly, in numerous handouts I encountered a variety of drawings, diagrams, graphs, and tables which were most likely obtained from journals, books, atlases, etc. The majority of these probably fall under the “fair use” provision of the United States Copyright Act of 1976. Although not a common topic of discussion in the basic sciences, occasionally we encounter a news article or anecdote relating to copyright issues in education. Undoubtedly this will become more important to us as faculty as we increase our use of the Internet and World Wide Web for sharing information. For now, the best advice on copyright issues remains: if in doubt, get permission in writing!
As the newly appointed Associate Editor for Social Issues in the Basic Sciences, I would like to begin by focusing our attention on the important topic of copyright law as it pertains to medical faculty. Through articles in this and subsequent issues of the Basic Science Educator, we will review the basics of copyright law and attempt to provide guidelines for using copyrighted materials. Our first article was provided by Julie Gores, Librarian and Chair of the Internal Copyright Committee at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Mary Blackwelder, Director of Libraries. This is followed by a guide, adapted from the United States Copyright Act of 1976, for classroom use of copyrighted materials which was developed for the faculty of the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Next time we will explore copyright issues and the Internet, and the use and misuse of computer software. If there are other topics regarding copyright issues that you would like to see addressed, please contact me.