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Copyright law protects an author’s original expression in creative works such as writings, music, movies, art, and images.

It supports a fundamental mission of colleges and universities: to create and disseminate new knowledge and understanding through teaching, research, and scholarship. It supports this mission in two basic ways: 1) providing incentives for the creation of new works by granting proprietary rights to copyright owners, and 2) limiting those rights in order to facilitate public access to, and use of, creative works.

In the emerging digital environment, there are new opportunities to increase access to new knowledge. Universities, publishers, government agencies, and public interest groups are seeking ways to exploit the capacity of digital technologies to expand both access to and use of copyrighted information, while preserving the quality and integrity of copyrighted works and the means to recover the continuing costs of publishing.

Some of the new digital technologies can be used for both beneficial and harmful purposes. Peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing technologies are used increasingly to distribute large data sets and information quickly and efficiently; P2P technologies can also be used to distribute music, movies, software and copyrighted works in ways that violate copyright law (see P2P section of web site).

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