The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to do and to authorize any of the following:

  • To reproduce
  • to prepare (new) derivative works
  • to distribute copies
  • to publicly perform
  • to publicly display the copyrighted work.

Copyright protection covers both published and unpublished works.

There are limited exceptions to these exclusive rights that do allow you to copy some amount of copyright work without having to obtain permission. The main exception relevant to academic study is one that allows "fair use."


In using copyright works (e.g. journal articles, books, etc.) for study or research you are expected to observe certain legal and ethical guidelines, especially to abide by the law of copyright. When you copy works or parts of works using photocopiers, scanners, the Windows "cut and paste" function, and such activities or when you output works or parts of them by printing, e-mail, saving to a disk, you must do so within the framework set by the law of copyright. Any work is accorded copyright protection when it is "fixed in a tangible medium, (Section 101)" (such as written on a piece of paper, recorded on disk, or tape, etc.). Copyright applies to all types of works encountered in academic study. Works in any medium - printed or electronic - are protected. This guide is intended to point out important aspects of copyright and how it affects your use of copyright works.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S.C.) to the authors of "original works of authorship." Copyrightable works of authorship include, among other categories, books, articles and other written works; musical and dramatic works; pictures, films, videos, sculptures and other works of art; computer software; and electronic chip designs. Copyright protection begins as soon as a work is created. Copyright lasts for a period of years, which varies according to the type of work. The fact that a previously published work is out of print does not affect its copyright. Certain rights are given to copyright owners to control the copying of their work. These rights are subject to limitations and allow copying under certain conditions.


Fair Use

Fair use is the legal principal that provides certain limitations on the exclusive right of copyright holders. The fair use section is found in Section 107 of the Copyright Law. Fair use allows for the use of copyrighted materials, within certain limitations, for purposes such as "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research." The law does not clearly delineate the boundaries of fair use. Instead, the law provides four factors, each of which must be weighed in order to determine fair use:

Purpose and character of the use.

This factor favors nonprofit educational use, such as scholarship and teaching. However, an educational purpose does not automatically lead to fair use; the other three factors must also be considered.

Nature of the copyrighted work.

Works that are factual in nature, as opposed to works involving creative expression, are more generally considered to be within the realm of fair use.

Amount of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.

In general, the larger the percentage of the work used, the less likely it is to be considered fair use. Although the copyright statute does not give specific numbers or percentages of a work that may be used, there are guidelines that cover most instances of fair use.

The effect of the use on the market value of the fair work.

This factor weighs against fair use in instances where the purchase of an original should have occurred. Copying for purposes of research and scholarship are seen as having less effect on the market value than copying in lieu of purchasing works for classroom use.

Fair use depends on a case-by-case reasonable and responsible application of each of the four factors. It should not be assumed that a nonprofit, educational use or giving credit for the source of the work automatically constitutes fair use.

Exceptions to Copyright

A limited number of exceptions to copyright allow you to copy portions of a copyright work without having to obtain prior permission of the copyright owner. The main exception for you as a student is the fair use copying of a work for the purposes of study and research.

What is copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement occurs when you copy, display, perform, distribute or create a derivative version of a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright holder or when such activity is not otherwise allowed under an exception provided by copyright law. Statutory damages for copyright infringement can be anywhere from $200-$100,000, depending on whether the infringer is deemed innocent or willful.

You are allowed to copy a "reasonable" portion of a work protected by copyright, provided that:

  • Only one copy is made.
  • The copy is only for private study, research, criticism, review, or newspaper summary (known as "fair use").
  • No commercial use is made of the copy (i.e. it is not sold or included in something that is to be sold).
  • It is a work in the "public domain"-the copyright has expired.

Copyright and the Internet

Most works on the Internet have copyright protection. It is wrong and reckless to assume that because material is freely available on the Internet that it may be copied and used at will. As a general rule, you should assume that everything you find on the Internet is copyright, unless otherwise labeled. Remember that those who have no authority to do so may place material on web sites. Many pirated works (books, music, images, etc.) are available. You should not copy, download or make hypertext links to any such infringing material.

In using material from the Internet:

  • Check if there is a copyright statement or policy on a particular web site that might indicate whether or not the material may be downloaded for personal use or any other restrictions. Such statements are often found on a site's home page under a copyright statement.
  • In the absence of a clear policy don't assume that any web site is consenting to wholesale copying.
  • If in doubt look for an appropriate email link or contact on the site and email and ask for permission to download or copy materials.

Electronic Databases and Journals

The library provides access to a number of databases that provide the full text of journal articles. Use of these databases is governed by licensing agreements between the library and provider of the databases. In using these resources you should be aware of the following points:

  • Usernames and barcode numbers are for your personal use only. They should not be shared with other persons.
  • Material may be downloaded or e-mailed to your e-mail address. It is recommended that you use your University e-mail account when e- mailing material. You should not e-mail copies of articles to anyone else or print out copies for anyone else but yourself. Under no circumstances may you post materials on bulletin boards, discussion groups, Intranets etc. Subscription services permit personal use only of the material in the database. If you want to check on the conditions of use of any of the services these terms and conditions usually can be viewed from the main page of the database.
  • You must not remove, obscure or alter in any way any copyright information that appears on any materials downloaded from a service.

PowerPoint Presentations

Electronic storage of copyrighted work is restricted by copyright. You should not copy, store or project copyright works (photographs, illustrations, charts, plans, maps, etc.) in such programs. This can only be done if the prior permission of the copyright owner has been obtained. Neither should slides containing such copyright works be printed and distributed as handouts without prior permission. You should not mount PowerPoint presentations on Intranet or Internet sites, unless prior permission has been obtained.