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Guide to Copyright Information for Print-Based Material and Computer Software

Law and Legislation

Library Resources

Law and Legislation

Copyright Basics – What Copyright Is

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  1. Reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords.
  2. Prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work.
  3. Distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.
  4. Perform the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works.
  5. Display the copyrighted 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.

It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the Act to the owner of copyright. These rights, however, are not unlimited in scope. Sections 107 through 119 of the Copyright Act establish limitations on these rights. In some cases, these limitations are specified exemptions from copyright liability. One major limitation is the doctrine of “fair use,” which is given a statutory basis in section 107 of the Act. In other instances, the limitation takes the form of a “compulsory license” under which certain limited uses of copyrighted works are permitted upon payment of specified royalties and compliance with statutory conditions. For further information about the limitations of any of these rights, consult the Copyright Act or write to the Copyright Office.

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Fair Use

One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 120 of the Copyright Act (Title 17, U.S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of “fair use.” Although fair use was not mentioned in the previous copyright law, the doctrine has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years. This doctrine has been codified in section 107 of the 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 distinction between “fair use” and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

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Document Delivery Services

Notice: Warning Concerning Copyright Restrictions

The copyright law of the U.S. (Title 17, U.S. Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later used, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.

With respect to any given periodicals (as opposed to any given issue of a periodical), filled requests of a library or archives (a “requesting entity”) within any calendar year for a total of six or more copies of an article or articles published in such periodicals within five years prior to the date of request. These guidelines specifically shall not apply, directly or indirectly, to any request of a requesting entity for a copy or copies of an article or articles published in any issue or a periodical, the publication date of which is more than five years prior to the date when the request is made. These guidelines do not define the meaning, with respect to such a request, of “...such aggregate quantities as to substitute for a subscription to such periodicals.”

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Under Title 17 USCS 108, “(f) Nothing in this section (1) shall be construed to impose liability upon a library or archives or its employees for the unsupervised use of reproduction equipment located on its premises: Provided, that such equipment displays a notice that the making of a copy may be subject to the copyright law.”

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17 USCS 108 (f) (1)) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. The person using the equipment is liable for any infringement.

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Classroom Photocopying


The legislative history of the Copyright Act of 1976 provides teachers and librarians with guidelines for the fair use of copyrighted materials reproduced from books and periodicals for classroom use.

The purpose of the following guidelines is to state the minimum standards of educational fair use under Section 107 of H.R. 2223. The parties agree that the conditions determining the extent of permissible copying for educational purposes may change in the future; that certain types of copying permitted under these guidelines may not be permissible in the future; and conversely that in the future other types of copying not permitted under these guidelines may be permissible under revised guidelines.

Moreover, the following statement of guidelines is not intended to limit the types of copying permitted under the standards of fair use under judicial decision and which are stated in Section 107 of the Copyright Revision Bill. There may be instances in which copying which does not fall within the guidelines stated below may nonetheless be permitted under the criteria of fair use.

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Single Copies:

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

A chapter from a book; an article from a periodical or newspaper; a short story, short essay or short poem, whether or not from a collective work; or a chart, graph, diagram, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper.

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Multiple Copies:

  1. The guidelines embody three standards: brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect. The guidelines are printed in the Report of the House Committee on the Judiciary (House Report No. 94-1476) which accompanied the Act.
  2. The purpose of the guidelines is to state the minimum and not the maximum standards of educational fair use under section 107 of H.R. 2223.
    1. The guidelines are not intended to limit the types of copying permitted under the standards of fair use which are stated in section 107 of the Act, and under judicial decision.
    2. Thus, copying for classroom use that exceeds the guidelines may also be justified in special circumstances under the rubric of fair use.
  3. Multiple copies for classroom use (not to exceed in any event more than one copy per pupil in a course) may be made by or for the teacher giving the course for classroom use or discussion, provided that:
    1. The copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity as defined below.
    2. Meets the cumulative effect test as defined below.
    3. Each copy includes a notice of copyright.

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  1. Length: Below are direct quotes from the published guidelines. Wording to the contrary, teachers may photocopy less than number of words specified. Further, as stated above, copying that exceeds the guidelines may be justified in special circumstances under fair use.
    1. Poetry: (i) A complete poem if less than 250 words and if printed on not more than two pages or, (ii) from a longer poem, an excerpt of not more than 250 words.
    2. Prose: Either a complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words, or an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1,000 words or 10 percent of the work, whichever is less, but in any event a minimum of 500 words.
  2. Each of the numerical limits stated above may be expanded to permit the completion of an unfinished line of a poem or of an unfinished prose paragraph.
  3. Illustration: One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture per book or per periodical issue.


  1. The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher.
  2. 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

  1. The copying of the material is for only one course in the school in which the copies are made.
  2. 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.
  3. There shall not be more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one course during one class term.

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The Computer Software Rental Amendments Act of 1990 (title VIII, section 202, of PL 101-650) generally grants owners of copyright in computer programs an exclusive right to control public distribution of the program in the nature of rental, lease, or lending. An exception to the law allows lending by nonprofit libraries for nonprofit purposes without the permission of the copyright owner, but requires libraries to affix a warning of copyright to the package containing the computer program. The text of the warning was published in the February 26, 1991 Federal Register (56 FR 7811-12) as a final regulation, effective March 28, 1991. The full text of the warning is as follows:

Notice: Warning of Copyright Restrictions

The Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the reproduction, distribution, adaptation, public performance, and public display of copyrighted material.

Under certain conditions specified in law, nonprofit libraries are authorized to lend, lease, or rent copies of computer programs to patrons on a nonprofit basis and for nonprofit purposes. Any person who makes an unauthorized copy or adaptation of the computer program, or redistributes the loan copy, or publicly performs or displays the computer program, except as permitted by Title 17 of the United States Code, may be liable for copyright infringement.

This institution reserves the right to refuse to fulfill a loan request if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the request would lead to violation of the copyright law.

The regulation states that a verbatim reproduction of the notice “shall be affixed to the packaging that contains the copy of the computer program, which is the subject of a library loan to patrons, by means of a label cemented, gummed, or otherwise durably attached to the copies or to a box, reel, cartridge, cassette, or other container used as a permanent receptacle for the copy of the computer program. The notice shall be printed in such manner as to be clearly legible, comprehensible, and readily apparent to a casual user of the computer program.”

Section 802 of the Computer Software Rental Amendments Act also provides for an exemption for the “transfer of possession of a lawfully made copy of a computer program by a nonprofit educational institution to another nonprofit educational institution or to faculty, staff, and students.”

However, such educational transfers do not require a specific copyright warning. Section 802, encompassing both the education and library exemptions, applies only to copies of software acquired after the date of enactment, that is, after December 1, 1990, and is effective only for five years, through October 1, 1997.

Within three years of enactment, the Register of Copyrights, after consulting with representatives of copyright owners and librarians, is to report to Congress on whether the library exemption “has achieved its intended purpose of maintaining the integrity of the copyright system while providing nonprofit libraries the capability to fulfill their function.”

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The following reserve policy is recommended by the American Library Association.

  1. At the request of a faculty member, a library may photocopy and place on reserve excerpts from copyrighted works in its collection in accordance with guidelines similar to those governing formal classroom distribution for face-to-face teaching.
  2. It is reasonable to believe that fair use should apply to the library reserve shelf to the extent that it functions as an extension of classroom readings or reflects an individual student’s right to photocopy for his or her personal scholastic use.
  3. In general, librarians may photocopy material for reserve room use for the convenience of students both in preparing class assignments and in pursuing the less formal education activities which higher education requires, such as independent study and research.
  4. There are specific guidelines for libraries dealing with library reserve concerning the number of copies of material, etc.

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  1. Copying shall not be used to create or to replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works. Such replacement or substitution may occur whether copies of various works or excerpts therefrom are accumulated or reproduced and used separately.
  2. There shall be no copying of or from works intended to be consumable in the course of study or of teaching. These include workbooks, exercises, standardized tests and test booklets and answer sheets and like consumable material.
  3. Copying shall not:
    1. Substitute for the purchase of books, publishers’ reprints, or periodicals.
    2. Be directed by higher authority.
    3. Be repeated with respect to the same item by the same teacher from term to term.
    4. No charge shall be made to the student beyond the actual cost of the photocopying.
  4. Because the negotiated safe-harbor guidelines for classroom uses are in many ways inappropriate for the college and university level, the American Library Association (ALA) recommends the following:
    1. “Brevity” simply cannot mean the same thing in terms of grade-school readings that it does for more advanced research.
    2. Because university professors were not specifically represented in the negotiation of the classroom guidelines, ALA published Model Policy Concerning College and University Photocopying for Classroom, Research and Library Reserve Use (the “Model Policy”).
    3. In general, the Model Policy suggests the standard guidelines be followed:
      1. The distribution of the same photocopied material does not occur every semester.
      2. Only one copy is distributed for each student.
      3. The material includes a copyright notice on the first page of the portion of material photocopied.
      4. The students are not assessed any fee beyond the actual cost of the photocopying.
      5. The photocopying practices of an instructor should not have a significant detrimental impact on the market for the copyrighted work, 17 U.S.C. section 107(4).
      6. To guard against this effect, the professor usually should restrict use of an item of photocopied material to one course and should not repeatedly photocopy excerpts from one periodical or author without the permission of the copyright owner.

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  1. When a use of photocopied material requires copyright permission, communicate complete and accurate information to the copyright owner.
  2. The Association of American Publishers in “Explaining the New Copyright Law” suggests that the following information be included in a permission request letter to the publisher in order to expedite the process:
    1. Title, author and/or editor, and edition of materials to be duplicated.
    2. Exact material to be used, giving amount, page numbers, chapters and, if possible, a photocopy of the material.
    3. Number of copies to be made,
    4. Use to be made of duplicated materials.
    5. Form of distribution (classroom, newsletter, etc.).
    6. Whether or not the material is to be sold.
    7. Type of reprint (ditto, photography, offset, typeset).
  3. The request should be sent with a self-addressed return envelope, to the Permissions Department of the publisher in question. Today, many publishers will accept fax requests.
  4. The process of granting permission requires time for the publisher to review the status of the copyright and to evaluate the nature of the request. It is advisable, therefore, to allow enough lead time to obtain permission before the materials are needed.
    1. In some instances, the publisher may assess a fee for the permission.
    2. It is not inappropriate to pass this fee on to the students who receive copies of the photocopied material.
    3. The Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) also has the right to grant permission and collect fees for photocopying rights for many publications.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the information in this guide is taken from the Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Additional information is taken from:

  • Computer Software Lending by Libraries; Copyright Warning Issued, ALA Washington Office Factsheet Copyright, American Library Association, Washington, DC, March 19, 1991.
  • EDUCOM’s Educational Uses of Information (EUIT) Program. A portion of the documentation available in Copyright Libraries: A Leadership Workshop: April 26 & 27, 1996, Washington, D.C.

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Library Resources

Indexes & Abstracts

Indexes and abstracts are tools that help you locate articles, newspapers, or chapters in books. Most of the indexes and abstracts are available on the first floor of the library. For educational resources, consult the Educational Resource Center.

Research in the field of copyright may lead to indexes that are in other disciplines. Please consult other subject guides for additional sources. Example: Use ERIC for topics in education.

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Periodicals (Magazines, journals, and newspapers)

The past 10 years of print periodicals are shelved on the first floor in alphabetical order by title. Older journals are kept at ground floor periodicals. All microfiche and microfilm resources (except ERIC) are housed on the first floor in the microroom.

To locate a list of periodicals by subject, do an Advanced Keyword search on Webster, and choose the Subject Keyword (SKEY) search option. Enter (subject) periodicals in the search box, then select “all of these.”

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Searching Webster (Online Catalog)

Copyright books are generally located in the Reference collection on the first floor of the library (these do not circulate) and on the shelves on the second and third floor under the Classification letters KF and Z.

Search by Subject: Type copyright .


  • Adoptable Copyright Policy. Ref KF 2994 V56
  • McCarthy’s Desk Encyclopedia of Intellectual Property. Ref KF 2976.4 M38
  • United States Code Service. Title 17 USCS Index. Ref KF 62 1972 L38 V. 31


  • Copyright, Fair Use, and the Challenge for Universities. Z 649 F35 C74
  • Copyright for School Libraries. KF 3020 Z9 S57

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Internet and Other Electronic Resources

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