chat loading...
Skip to main content

Copyright and Fair Use in the Library: Home

Copyright @ James E. Tobin Library

The James E. Tobin Library supports our faculty, students and employees in teaching, research and service related activities through the responsible, good faith exercise of fair use rights as codified in copyright law 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

The purpose of this guide is to provide faculty members with basic information about copyright law and specific exceptions that apply to educational use. This guide is not meant to offer or substitute for legal advice.

Understanding Copyright Law

The copyright law was originally created by Congress as a form of protection extended to the creators of "original works of authorship" both published and unpublished. The legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of information go beyond properly citing sources and avoiding plagiarism. Educators and researchers should be knowledgeable about issues relating to censorship, freedom of speech, intellectual property, copyright, and fair use. For the academic community there is a "fair use" exception to what is known as the permission requirement which applies as long as particular requirements of the copyright law are met.  If they are not, permission must be sought.

The following tools provided by American Library Association, Office for Information Technology Policy will help in understanding a variety of copyright issues.

The Copyright Genie Useful in determining if a work is covered by U.S. copyright and in calculating the terms of protection.

Fair Use Evaluator  Offers tips on understanding how to determine the "fairness" of a particular use under the U.S. Copyright Code.

Exceptions for Instructors eTool This online tool is used to determine if intended educational use of copyrighted material meets all requirements. 

The Copyright Act contains specific limitations on a copyright owner's exclusive rights when the intended use is by non-profit educational institutions. These provisions include:

  • Fair use Section 107 applies to the right to use copyrighted materials without obtaining permission from the copyright owner under certain circumstances.
  • Reproduction by libraries and archives Section 108  applies to the right that libraries and archives are given to make copies of certain types of works for specific purposes such as the replacement of damaged materials or for interlibrary loan.
  • Exemption from permission requirements for certain performances or displays, Section 110 , This exception covers use of public displays and performances in the classroom and in online distance education.  An important extension of this exemption is the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act which is an amendment to sections 110(2) and 112(f).