Library Copyright Policy
The following overview addresses copyright and library copyright policy.
- What is copyright?
- Why is copyright relevant?
- What does copyright protect?
- What does copyright protection entail?
- When does copyright expire?
- What is in the public domain?
- The Fair Use doctrine
- Guidelines for Fair Use and the Web
- Items NOT under Fair Use
- What uses of copyright-protected material require permission?
- Where can I obtain copyright permission?
- Protecting your personal work online
- Links to websites for further information
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, including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. Copyright protection is inherent upon creation, and original works are protected regardless of whether they are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Copyright law governs use when you: upload items to a web page; photocopy a journal article or book excerpt; place material on reserve; create a course reader; and more!
Copyright law protects original works that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. It also protects a new arrangement of existing facts or ideas. Copyright law does NOT protect works in the public domain or facts and ideas.
The owner/author of a copyright-protected work has the exclusive right to reproduce the work, sell copies of the work, perform and/or display the work publicly, and prepare derivative works based on the work. If you are NOT the copyright owner to the material that you want to use, then permission must be sought for the item -- or your use must fall within the parameters of Fair Use.
If the work was published BEFORE January 1, 1978, copyright protection will last the life of the author plus 95 years. If the work was published AFTER January 1, 1978, copyright protection will last the life of the author plus 70 years. Copyright protection for corporate works (ex. Disney’s Mickey Mouse) is the date of creation plus 90 years. Once copyright has expired, the item is considered to be in the public domain.
- Facts, "common knowledge"
- Ideas not in a tangible form
- Most document and reports produced by the U.S. Federal Government
- Items whose copyright has expired
Fair Use allows the reproduction of an excerpt of a work for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair Use is not an infringement of copyright and does not require permission from the copyright holder. Fair Use of an item is determined by a Four-Factor Test:
2. Nature of item being used – non-fiction work versus fiction/highly creative work
3. Amount to be used – small amount versus entire work
4. Market effect on item – One time use versus repeated or long-term use
Fair Use: 4-Factor Test
The chart below is a summary of the Four-Factor Test in Fair Use. Although the parameters of Fair Use are negotiable, favoring Fair Use as much as possible keeps your work within a legally defensible position.
|Favors Fair Use||Does not favor Fair Use|
|PURPOSE of use||Non-profit||Commercial|
|NATURE of item||Non-fiction||Fiction|
|AMOUNT used||Small||Large; “heart" of work|
|EFFECT on item||Maintains market value||Lowers market value|
To put copyright protected material on the web, specifically for a course web site or educational page, and still claim Fair Use, it is recommended that:
- The web page is password-protected
- Access to the web page is limited to students enrolled in the course
- The use is only for a limited time, usually one semester
- Item credit line/source information is listed
Due to the interpretive variability of Fair Use, the following guidelines were established to aid educators in determining what could safely be considered Fair Use. Although the parameters set below are a good guide to follow when organizing your work, it is important to note that they are only guidelines, and NOT the law. Copyright law is purposely vague to allow for interpretation in a variety of situations.
- Text material: Up to 10% or 1000 words of a written work, whichever is less; title page/source information is included in copy file.
- Images: Use smaller sized image (ex. thumbnail); Lower resolution (standard: 72 dpi); list credit line, source, and attribution information; limit to a few pieces from a single artist.
- Movies/TV programs: Up to 10% or 3 minutes of motion media, whichever is less; not the “heart" of the work.
- Music/Music video: 10%, but no more than 30 seconds, of an individual musical work; any alteration to music cannot change the "fundamental character" of the work.
The following types of material do not fall under the Fair Use doctrine, no matter what the intended use.
- Software: You do not own software, you have only purchased a license to use it; you may make one copy of software for archival purposes.
- Consumables (i.e. student workbooks, manuals): Meant to be purchased by each student for individual use; market value is lowered when only one copy is bought and photocopied.
- Creation of a course reader
- Repeated use of an item
- Re-publication of a whole or large excerpt of a copyright-protected work
- Any commercial use
- Large quantity duplication of distribution
Permission to use a copyright-protected work may be obtained by contacting the author/creator of the item in question. Authors may be contacted through their publisher, a literary/artistic agency, or an author/artist foundation. Additionally, permission for many copyright-protected works is handled by intermediary licensors, who grant permission and collect fees (if any) on behalf of the author. The largest licensors are the Copyright Clearance Center and the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations.
You may also search the U.S. Copyright Office records for the author of a work. Not all authors register their works with the office – if you do not find the item/author in the registry, do not assume that the item is in the public domain.
Remember that copyright protection is inherent upon creation, but following are some tips to give extra security to any personal work that you might place online.
- Place "© year – your name" on all pages of the work
- Register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office
- Place a "click-thru" agreement, or password protect, the web site on which your material is located
Copyright clearance for theses/dissertations:
General Copyright Law:
Fair Use information:
Guidelines for reproduction of copyrighted works by educators and librarians
Stanford University libraries: Fair Use information
Chart - When works pass into the public domain (by Univ of North Carolina)
Copyright extension debate:
Pro: Copyright Extension
United States Patent and Trademark Office: