who owns material on databases?

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  • This is sort of a spin-off of my last question about photocopying journal articles. Thanks to the members who gave their opinions on that!

    So an instructor wanted to make copies of a journal article on a Gale database. The article came from Gale reference work. No author was given on the article or citation in the printout I saw.

    However, the instructor knew the author, contacted him, and he gave permission to reproduce the article. Would that be okay in this case? Who owns the rights at this point, the author or the database provider?

    Also, the author told my instructor that she could use anything from the internet as long as it's educational and not-for-profit. That's not exactly right, is it? Work on the internet should fall under fair use?

    Thanks so much!
  • What the author said is not exactly right. Not all uses of material on the Internet will fall under fair use. Copyright law applies to works on the Internet just as it applies to works not on the Internet. Educational and not-for-profit might have stronger fair use arguments or other exemptions to take advantage of that others don't have, but often exemptions are more generous to non-digital works than digital works.

    The author generally owns the work unless it was a work for hire, or unless the author subsequently assigned copyright to a publisher or someone else. That happens fairly regularly. The author might not be the holder of copyright in the work. I would ask the author, and get as much documentation as possible that the author has allowed your use.

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