From LibrarianInBlack, here’s an interesting video about copyright done by the Copyright Clearance Center. The video is cute, engaging, and well-done, and is a good jumping off point if you have questions or are thoroughly confused about copyright.
However, as one of the commenters pointed out, the CCC is a for-profit company dealing with licensing copyrighted material. In other words, they’re not exactly a credible, unbiased source, and the video neglects to go into much detail about fair use. The U.S. Copyright office openly acknowledges that fair use is murky at best. According to their website:
The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission.
Basically, fair use allows the use of a small portion of a copyrighted work for educational, non-profit purposes. The CCC video, while it’s entertaining and I recommend you watch it, basically glosses over this completely and makes copyright out to be a confusing behemoth to be handled only by experts. Although I fully support authors being compensated for their hard work and intellectual property, I think the scientific community and intellectual community at large will benefit from the move towards open access publishing, particularly when the authors retain their copyright under Creative Commons licenses so others can easily learn about and build on their work. However, I’m certainly no expert and I’d love to hear what others have to say about the subject.