Copyright, Fair Use, and the Library

Learn about Fair Use

What is Copyright

Copyright is a legal protection extended to the creators of original works meant to ensure their right to be compensated under certain circumstances as well as providing an incentive to share their works and to grant others the right to use their works in certain ways. Whenever copyrighted works are used in the process of either teaching and research, These uses may conflict in some way with the copyright owner's exclusive rights. Specific rights are granted to copyright holders by the U.S. Copyright Act under title 17 of the U.S. Copyright Code. However, there are certain exemptions in this act granted to non-profit educational users where permission is not necessary as long as actions such as reproduction and distribution of copies are specifically for the purpose of teaching or research.

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Copyright law applies to nearly all creative and intellectual works available in both traditional media (books, DVDs, CDs, etc.) and digital media (electronic journals, websites, etc.) format.

Copyright protects most creative works but to qualify for copyright protection, a work must satisfy two requirements: it must be original, and it must be "fixed in a tangible medium of expression". In order for a work to be "fixed in a tangible medium of expression", it must be recorded using some form of physical medium, whether it is on paper, canvas, or computer disk.

Copyright protects the following list of creative works:

  • literary works
  • musical works
  • dramatic works
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works