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DigitalCommons@SHU: Nuts & Bolts, Policies & Procedures

The place where you can find out all the stuff you wanted to know about SHU's Digital Commons site.

Copyright Law of the United States of America


Copyright is the protection given to authors of  “original works of authorship,” by the laws of the United States.  Protection includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works and applies to both both published and unpublished works. The owner of the copyright has exclusive rights to the following:

  • reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords 
  • prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works 
  • display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work 
  • perform the work publicly (in the case of sound recordings*) by means of a digital audio transmission

It is illegal for anyone to violate the rights given to the copyright holder, however, there are exemptions from copyright liability. One of the most notable limitations is the doctrine of "fair use."

United States Copyright Office. (2012). Copyright Basics. Retrieved October 22, 2016 from 


 Fair Use is a legal doctrine that allows for the unlicensed use of copyrighted works in certain circumstances. "Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use" (United States Copyright Office). Four factors are considered in questions of fair use:

  • Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • Nature of the copyrighted work
  • Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

It is important to remember that fair use claims are considered by courts on a case-by-case basis; meaning that there is no exact formula to guarantee proper fair use practice. There are always considerations that depend on "fact-specific inqueries" and therefore fair use cannot be predetermined. 

United States Copyright Office. (n.d.). More Information on Fair Use. Retrieved October 22, 2016 from

Center for the Study of the Public Domain

Center for the Study of the Public Domain

The Center for the Study of the Public Domain was founded to promote scholarship on the public domain and its importance to science and culture.  The Center advocates a more balanced intellectual property system.  The Center’s site includes informational resources including a copyright law basics comic book entitled Tales from the Public Domain: BOUND BY LAW?

Books on Copyright

Association of Research Libraries

Copyright Clearance Center, Tools and Guidelines

 Copyright Clearance Center, Tools and Guidelines

The Copyright Clearance Center, a not-for-profit company offering collective copyright licensing services.  Its Tools and Guidelines page makes advice on best practices available for Using Course Management Systems, Using Electronic Reserves, Interlibrary Loan, and the TEACH Act.


Crash Course in Copyright

Crash Course in Copyright

This online guide to copyright basics was created by Georgia Harper, Attorney, Intellectual Property Section, The University of Texas System, Office of General Counsel. The site includes useful Fair Use Rules of Thumb established to guide UT educators.

eBooks on Copyright

What are Fair Use Guidelines?