Blackwell Library

Software

Copyright Symbol imageThe University has an Acceptable Use Policy for computer and network use that covers copyright issues and netiquette.

A few simple guidelines prevail for using, copying and sharing software:

  • Although licensing terms may be challenged, it is better to read and follow them or return software if the terms are not acceptable.

  • Libraries may make one copy of library-purchased software solely for archival purposes; however, only one copy at a time may be used. They may make a second copy if the single copy in use is destroyed. If the copy in use is stolen, they need to contact copyright owners before making another copy.

  • If licenses limit software use to a single user or computer, then programs cannot be loaded onto additional computers.

  • If software is sold or given to another person it must be removed from the first user's computer.

Rather than issue explicit approved uses or restrictions on software use, the Conference on Fair Use created illustrative scenarios of good practice. This link will take you to the complete scenarios, but the following examples from the scenarios and other sources illustrate a few major points:

  1. A student at a nonprofit educational institution licenses a computer program for a personal computer, and uploads the computer program to the school library's network, where it can be accessed and copied by several hundred students, faculty and staff without permission of the copyright owner.

    There is copyright infringement by the student. Their unauthorized reproduction of the computer program is not covered by Section 109(b) exemptions for nonprofit library lending for nonprofit purposes or nonprofit educational institutional lending.

  2. A professor places a legally owned copy of a program on reserve. It has no copyright notice. May the library circulate the program?

    The absence of a copyright notice probably signals that the program is a copy. While owners and libraries may usually make one archival copy, only one copy may circulate at a time. On this basis, the answer would be no. If the professor purchased a second copy to place on reserve, the answer would be yes, provided there were no licensing restrictions. The library could also make its own archival copy. In this case, however, it would be extremely beneficial if the professor provided additional information to students to avoid further copying.

Public Domain Software

There are several sites providing free software. Public domain software is free, can be used without restrictions, and is no longer or never was protected by copyright. By contrast, freeware and shareware, often also free, at least for a time period, are usually copyrighted.