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Copyright and Fair Use: Copyright Law

This LibGuide provides information on copyright law, fair use and compliance guidelines for classroom use.

Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators

Copyright on Campus by Copyright Clearance Center

Getting Permission

Copyright Law Defined

Copyright law, as defined in Title 17 of the United States Code, protects "original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression" for a limited period. Copyright protection includes, for instance, the legal right to publish and sell literary, artistic, or musical work, and copyright protects authors, publishers and producers, and the public.  Copyright applies both to traditional media (books, records, etc.) and to digital media (electronic journals, web sites, etc.). Copyright protects the following eight categories of works:

  1. literary works
  2. musical works
  3. dramatic works
  4. pantomimes and choreographic works
  5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  7. sound recordings
  8. architectural works

Using Copyrighted Materials

Faculty may share materials in the following situations:

When you are the legal copyright owner
Caution: You may not be the legal copyright owner of works that you created as part of your employment. Check the college's policy on Copyright and Intellectual Property and the U.S. Copyright Office web site for more information.

When you need to get written permission to use a work
See the box entitled "Getting Permission" on this page for resources that will help you request permission to use copyrighted materials


When you link to an online resource
Instead of distributing copies, share links to electronic resources, including publicly-available web sites and library research databases.


When you use materials that are in the public domain
American works in the public domain are no longer protected by copyright. This chart, Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States, from Cornell University may be helpful when when you have questions about public domain. Visit this link at the U. S. Copyright office for more information.

When a Creative Commons notice appears on the work
Works in the Creative Commons may be copied, distributed, displayed, performed, and made into derivative works, but only when the work is attributed to the original creator and is not used for commercial purposes.


When you are protected by the TEACH Act
The college, the college's technology staff, and the faculty member all have a role to play in securing protection under the TEACH Act. Furthermore, the TEACH Act applies to distance learning educators only!  Learn more about the TEACH Act.


When fair use factors lean in your favor
Fair Use guidelines help educators determine the impact of using copyrighted materials in for areas -- purpose, nature, proportion, and impact. Remember that fair use is not clearly spelled out and it only affords protection for one time only and for resources that were lawfully made. Learn more about fair use.