Copyright & Intellectual Property

Disclaimer: The information presented here is general information offered as a general outline. It is not intended as legal advice, which should only be provided through an attorney and in relation to a specific situation.

Copyright: The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the fair use and making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted materials. The General Guidelines can be found here. Libraries and archives are authorized under certain conditions which are specified in the law, to provide a photocopy or other reproduction for their patrons. Such conditions include research purposes, whereby photocopying is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." Should the patron request or later use a photocopy for other purposes than those stated as "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

Fair Use: According to Copyright Law: Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

The Copyright Act requires that photocopying for educational use be of a limited nature, determined by the brevity of the material, the spontaneity and the cumulative effect of the creation.

Making Copies


A single copy may be made of any of the following by a teacher for his or her scholarly research or use in teaching or preparing to teach a class:

  • A chapter of a book.
  • An article from a periodical (magazine, journal or newspaper).
  • A short story, short essay or short poem, whether or not it is from a collective work.
  • A chart, graph, diagram, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical or newspaper.

Multiple copies may be made by or for the teacher giving the course, for the classroom use or discussion, provided that:

  • Copying meets the test of brevity and spontaneity as defined below; AND
  • Meets the cumulative effect test defined below.
  • Each copy should include a notice of copyright.
  • For the purpose of this notice, the American Library Association has recommended the following wording:



The following guidelines limiting educational use also apply:


The copying meets the tests of brevity described in the following guidelines:

With respect to poetry:

  • A complete poem, if it is less than 250 words and if it is printed on not more than two pages, or, for a longer poem, you may make an excerpt of not more than 250 words. This limitation may be exceeded to complete a line.

With respect to prose:

  • Prose may be used if it is either a complete article, story or essay, if it is less than 2500 words, or, an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less, but in any event, a minimum of 500 words. Example: if a prose work contained 3,000 words, 10% would equal 300 words.
  • However, you may copy 500 words. This limitation may be exceeded to complete a paragraph.

With respect to illustrations:

  • One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture per book or per periodical, provided that the individual item isn't copyrighted.

With respect to "special" works:

  • "Special Works" are certain works in poetry, prose, or in "poetic prose, often combine language with illustrations, and are intended for specific readerships and at other times for a more general audience, and fall short of 2,500 words in the entirety. Such "special works" may not be reproduced in their entirety.
  • However, an excerpt comprising not more than two of the published pages of such special work and containing not more than 10% of the words found in the text thereof may be reproduced

The copying meets the tests of spontaneity as described in the following guidelines:

  • The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher, AND
  • The inspiration and decision to use the work and the moment of its use for maximum teaching effectiveness are so close in time that it would be unreasonable to expect a timely reply to a request for permission.
Cumulative Effect

The copying meets the cumulative effect tests described in the following suggested guidelines:

  • The copying of the material must be for only one course for which the copies are made. Not more than one short poem, article, story, essay or two excerpts may be copied from the same author, nor more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume during one class term.
  • Cumulative effect prohibits more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one course during a class term. Because the guidelines are not clear as to the meaning of the word "course," the following interpretation is suggested:
      • Multi-section courses taught by same faculty member should be treated as one course.
      • Multi-section courses taught by different faculty members should be treated as a separate course.
      • It is suggested that a course be considered to be terminated at the end of each grading period.
      • Multiple copies of articles by the same author should not be copied, nor more than three from the collective work or periodical volume during one class term.

Copying of Items SHOULD NOT:

  • Be a substitute for the purchase of books, publisher's reprints or periodicals.
  • Be repeated with respect to the same item by the same teacher from term to term. The American Library Association has come up with this Fair Use Checklist, that might be useful to you..
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