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Copyright & Fair Use for Students

What are copyright and fair use, with examples.

Copyright & Fair Use


Copyright laws protect authors, publishers, musicians, artists and others from having their work stolen or misused. Copying a song, a book or an image without permission is not legal. However, there are exceptions, which brings us to fair use.

Fair use exceptions were designed with education in mind. Fair use says that as a researcher or educator you can copy sources for your own use or use in class when used for educational purposes--with limits.

Length of Copyright

TipThis brief explanation of length of copyright & publications can help you determine if an author's work might be out of copyright. Works that are out of copyright can be freely used and are frequently available online.

  • Works Published After 1978
    Life of the author + 70 years.
  • Works Published 1923-1978
    95 years from date of publication.
  • Works Published Before 1923
    All in the public domain.

Fair Use Examples

Examples of Fair Use

  • A single photocopy of part of a copyrighted work, such as an article from a journal, would probably be considered fair use.
  • Copying a single chapter from a book would also probably be considered fair use.

Examples that are not Fair Use

  • Copying all the assignments from a book recommended for purchase by the instructor.
  • Making multiple copies of articles or book chapters for distribution to classmates.
  • Copying material from workbooks would most likely not be considered fair use.

What about online resources?

You can copy full text articles from the library's databases for your own use. Copying them and distributing them to other people via email, blog or print probably would not be considered fair use. In EBSCOhost eBooks you can copy a limited number of pages from an eBook--the site automatically limits what you can do per publisher and title.

And one more thing...

This is general information and does not constitute legal advice.