Copyright covers original works "in a tangible medium of expression" for defined periods of time. It provides copyright holders, including authors and publishers, the right to publish, distribute, and sell works of literature, art, music, and film in traditional physical or electronic formats. Authors and publishers generally retain the right to control how their work is used, with some exceptions set aside for Fair Use by students, educators, researchers, and parodists.
Copyright protects works in the following categories:
While law enforcement agencies don't actively seek out copyright infringement to prosecute, rights holders are often on the lookout for evidence that individuals or groups are violating their copyright. Copyright holders may seek damages in court if you use materials without their permission. The most recent high profile example is a $600 million lawsuit by a technology company against the United States Navy. While this is an extreme example, the cost of copyright lawsuits can be quite high.
Penalties can include:
Since faculty select the materials that they use for classes, they would be responsible for damages related to copyright violations, not the college.