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Research Guides

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. 

Copyright protection exists from the moment a work is fixed in a tangible form of expression (This could include a DVD, CD, even a napkin with writing on it).  It is the right granted by law to an author or creator to control the use of the work created. This allows the owner of the copyrighted material to:

  •  Make copies (A copy is the reproduction of an original work, here are some examples of what would be considered a "copy":  download, PDF email attachment, photocopy or scan, etc.)
  •  Distribute copies (including using the internet)
  •  Prepare derivatives based on the original work (like a sequel or spin-off)
  •  Perform the work publicly
  •  Display the work publicly

What is Fair use?

Copyright Law Section 107 lists various purposes for which reproduction of a work may be considered "fair", such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. A Final determination on Fair Use may be made after careful balancing of each of four factors:

  1. Purpose of Use:  Favors nonprofit, educational, scholarly or research use. Less likely to be fair if the user profits from the use or if the use is for entertainment purposes.
  2. Nature of the work: Favors fair use for nonfiction works that are factual in nature and if a work has been published.  Less likely if it has not, for example the unpublished letters of a historical figure.
  3. Amount of the portion used: Favors when a small quantity is used and when the portion used is not central or significant to the entire work. Less likely to be fair if a large portion or the whole work is used.
  4. Effect on the market: Favors when the use of the copyrighted work does not harm the market for the work or its value. When a use is transformative, it is less likely that the market for the original work is damaged.

What not to do?

  • Do not make multiple copies
  • Do not use for profit
  • Do not send PDFs of articles to others ( Instead send a link ) 
  • Do not use anything that you download from the Internet unless you get the author's permission