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Tarleton State University Libraries Unit 10
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  Copyright is the exclusive legal right granted to the creators of original published and unpublished works (literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and intellectual). This right is provided by United States law (title 17, U.S. Code) and grants the creator exclusive rights to reproduce, modify, publish, distribute, display, perform, and sell the work. Violating copyright law is illegal and carries severe penalties.

Exemptions for using copyrighted material are in place, which are important in situations where copyrighted material is used in scholarship, research, commentary, and criticism.

The doctrine of "fair use" is such an exemption (section 107) and offers four "tests" to see if the intended use stays true to copyright law:

1)  purpose and character of the use (i.e. commercial or nonprofit educational),
2)  nature of the copyrighted work,
3)  amount used compared to the whole work (i.e. percentage of the whole) and the importance of the portion used to the original work's value, and
4)  effect of the use on the potential market for the protected work or on the protected work's value.

Academic work for courses usually falls within fair use guidelines because it is created for nonprofit educational purposes. Also, student writers (like everyone else) are expected to take steps to avoid plagiarism and to provide appropriate documentation. When in doubt, researchers should check copyright guidelines and/or ask the original creator's permission before using the item in question.

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More information about copyright and fair use is available on the following pages:

•  Checklist for Fair Use -- provides online checklist to evaluate whether intended use constitutes fair use.
•  Copyright Clearance Center -- gives online means to request permission to reproduce copyrighted materials.
•  Copyright Law of the United States -- offers comprehensive information about copyright law.
•  How Long Copyright Protection Endures -- provides rules regarding copyright longevity.
•  New Copyright Law for Distance Education: The Meaning and Importance of the TEACH Act -- offers an easy-to-read discussion of the TEACH Act.
•  U.S. Copyright Office, Library of Congress -- answers questions about usage and gives access to copyright laws, frequently asked questions, etc.
•  What is Not Protected by Copyright? -- offers a brief list of unprotected items.

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Updated 7/2004