This is the "The Basics" page of the "Copyright and Fair Use for Faculty" guide.
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Copyright and Fair Use for Faculty  

This guide has used material from the Copyright/Plagiarism LibGuide of University of Nebraska Medical Center by Marie Reidelbach. Public Domain information was created by Ingrid Redman of the Bern Dibner Library of Science and Technology.
Last Updated: Nov 21, 2014 URL: Print Guide

The Basics Print Page

A Fair(y) Use Tale

Learn the basics about Copyright, the Public Domain, and Fair Use with this video that was created by Eric Faden from Bucknell University.

What Is...

A form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to authors. The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to do and authorize the following:
To reproduce the work;
To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
To prohibit other persons from using the work without permission;
To perform the work publicly.
Copyright protection covers both published and unpublished works as well as out-of-print materials. Some works that can be copyrighted include:
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
Facts, ideas, procedures, processes, systems, concepts, principles or discoveries cannot be copyrighted. However, some of these can be protected by patent or trade secret laws.
The Public Domain
A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be freely used by everyone. Works fall into the public domain for three main reasons:
1. the term of copyright for the work has expired;
2. the author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright or
3. the work is a work of the U.S. Government.
As a general rule, most works enter the public domain because of old age. This includes any work published in the United States before 1923. Another large block of works are in the public domain because they were published before 1964 and copyright was not renewed. (Renewal was a requirement for works published before 1978.) A smaller group of works fell into the public domain because they were published without copyright notice (copyright notice was necessary for works published in the United States before March 1, 1989).
Fair Use
Under the “fair use” rule of copyright law, an author may make limited use of another author’s work without asking permission. However, “fair use” is open to interpretation. Fair use is intended to support teaching, research, and scholarship, but educational purpose alone does not make every use of a work fair.
It is always important to analyze how you are going to use a particular work against the following four factors of fair use.
1. What is your purpose in using the material? Are you going to use the material for monetary gain or for education or research purposes?
2. What is the characteristic nature of work – is it fact or fiction; has it been published or not?
3. How much of the work are you going to use? Small amount or large? Is it the significant or central part of the work?
4. How will your use of the work effect the author’s or the publisher’s ability to sell the material? If your purpose is for research or education, your effect on the market value may be difficult to prove. However, if your purpose is commercial gain, then you are not following fair use.

    Selected Websites

    It's best to start with the US Copyright Office when researching Copyright and Fair Use.  They have numerous resources and answers to FAQs.

    Copyright and Fair Use in Action!

    Read about some real-life scenarios involving potential copyright infringement and fair use.


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