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What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.

It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright. These rights, however, are not unlimited in scope. Sections 107 through 121 of the 1976 Copyright Act establish limitations on these rights. In some cases, these limitations are specified exemptions from copyright liability. One major limitation is the doctrine of “fair use,” which is given a statutory basis in section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act.

Section 107, Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use, states:

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies… for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

Lane Library does not provide legal advice.

The links below provide information on copyright and fair use issues to assist you with your understanding of the law. When in doubt, consult a qualified attorney.


Policy on the Use of Copyrighted Works in Education and Research
The University System of Georgia’s policies on copyright, including links to a fair use checklist and guidelines on electronic reserves.
Fair Use Exception
The University System of Georgia’s detailed explanation of Fair Use and the four factor analysis.
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries. Also as a PDF file.
Published in 2012 by the Association of Research Libraries to assist faculty members and librarians in making fair use determinations.
Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States. Also as a PDF file.
Chart for determining what works are in the public domain, from Cornell University
Copyright Crash Course
Georgia Harper, J.D., is the Scholarly Communications Advisor for the University of Texas at Austin Libraries. She created the Copyright Crash Course to assist students, faculty and administrators with copyright issues.
Duke University Libraries’ FAQ on copyright issues and their Scholarly Communications web site.
The Scholarly Communications Office at Duke University Libraries, overseen by Kevin Smith, J.D., MLS, offers extensive useful information on copyright and related issues.
United States Copyright Office, Library of Congress
The Copyright Office Website makes available all copyright registration forms, many in fill-in format; all informational circulars; the Register’s testimony; announcements; general copyright information; and links to related resources. [text from site]. Circular 21, Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians is particularly helpful.
Copyright Clearance Center
Provides assistance in obtaining permission to reproduce copyrighted content such as articles and book chapters in your journals, photocopies, coursepacks, library reserves, Web sites, e-mail and more. [text from site]

Getting Permission

Different academic departments may vary in their procedure for obtaining permission to use copyrighted material for classroom and teaching purposes. In general, permission is usually requested by contacting the publisher directly or by contacting the Copyright Clearance Center.

For extensive information on photocopying materials to be placed on Reserve in the Library, please see the policies outlined on the Reserves Department page.

Lane Library’s procedures must be in compliance with the copyright laws of the United States, the policies of the Board of Regents, and the regulations of Armstrong State University.

Last updated: 6/1/2018