Section 2.2 Copyright Law

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s mission extends the knowledge and resources of the University of Maine to people where they live and work. UMaine Extension is committed to complying with copyright and intellectual property laws.

We expect our personnel to respect other’s intellectual property rights and make good faith efforts to determine if using others’ works fall within fair use. Recognizing that not all educational uses of copyrighted materials are fair use, we require our personnel to seek and obtain all permissions needed to avoid infringement.

Copying an article for a meeting, or quoting another author’s work in a publication without prior permission or payment may be illegal. “An Act for General Revision of the Copyright Law,” Public Law 94-553, went into effect January 1, 1978. As amended, the law now includes restrictions on videotaping TV programs off the air, showing films, copying books or bulletins for interlibrary loan, and the use of dramatic or musical productions, as well as published written, graphic or computer media. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 has added provisions regarding fair use in digital publishing and access, circumvention of copyright protection systems, and restricted liability for online service providers. All staff members should use extreme care in copying and quoting material. Penalties for criminal offenses relating to copyrights are fairly stiff, and employees should avoid the expense, inconvenience, and embarrassment of infractions. Generally, any use of copyrighted material beyond immediate, personal, one-time use may infringe on copyright. When in doubt, request clearance from the copyright holder. Seek and obtain all permissions needed to avoid infringement.

Copyright (in brief)


  • Copyright — protects original works of authorship
  • Patent — protects inventions or discoveries
  • Trademark — protects identifying words, phrases, symbols, or designs

Length of Copyright

  • Published before 1923
    • In public domain
  • Created January 1, 1978 or after
    • Life + 70 years or
    • Shorter of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation
  • Everything else
    • It depends
      • Date of publication
      • Date of creation
      • If copyright was renewed

If it’s not yours, get permission. Give proper credit.

For further information on copyright laws, consult the following links:

Newsletters and Publications

Quoted or paraphrased material and other citations in Extension newsletters, fact sheets or publications should be checked with the copyright holder for clearance before being used. Extension employees must seek permission to use or adapt material from any source. Contrary to popular belief, most material published by other Extension organizations IS copyright protected. Secure permission of the copyright holder before using that material.


Images (photos, clipart, charts, tables, infographics) used for any purpose should be checked for copyright as if it were written material. You can find a multitude of free images available online, however be aware that free of charge does not always mean copyright-free. Free photos and clipart are usually copyrighted, and offered for use only under certain conditions — for instance that the images not be used for personal gain — and that credit is given to the owner of the image, or a link is provided to the owner’s site. If you fail to follow the conditions of use for the image, you are using the images illegally. Images purchased online or as part of a software package have limited copyright clearance, as has clip art published in commercial clip art books (below). In choosing images, whether for scanning or other forms of reproduction, written permission from the copyright holder must be obtained before using any copyrighted materials from magazines, newspapers, coloring books, greeting cards or similar sources.

More information on image use and accessing the online Extension photo database is available online at Plugged In.

Balance with regard to diversity and multiculturalism should be considered when choosing all images for Extension publications.

The World Wide Web

The accessibility and wealth of information on the Web may provide the illusion that it is free for the taking. However, considering the long life of most copyrights relative to the life of the Web, the bulk of material on the Web is likely to be copyright-protected. In addition to items traditionally protected by copyright in print, this can include images, commentary, stories, even e-mail and newsgroup messages. If you copy images, text or even html code from the Web, there is a good chance that you are infringing on copyright protection. Keep in mind that the Fair Use provision is subject to even more of a gray area than usual when it comes to the Internet, particularly in the instance of using material from someone else’s Web page in the creation of your Web page.

Computer Software

Computer programs, like books, are covered by copyright law. UMaine Extension purchases legal copies of all software used on its computers, either by individual purchase or by purchasing licensing agreements. Illegal software is not to be used on Extension computers.