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Copyright Law: Home

A description of resources pertaining to the study of copyright law in the United States

The Constitution - Article I, Section 8: The Source of Copyright Law


The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

... to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

Copyright Law in the United States Code

Copyright law can be found in Title 17 of the U.S. Code.  Congress originally enacted a copyright law at the end of the 18th century, and the law  has been amended several times. Copyrights of all types of works are governed by the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress.

Fair Use of a Copyrighted Work

Without obtaining the consent of the copyright owner, copyrighted works generally are protected from use by others. However, the copyright law allows the "fair use" of copyrighted works if certain criteria are met.  The "fair use" doctrine is extensively used in educational settings.  The law provides four criteria for evaluating fair use:

  • The purpose and character of the use: best if for non-profit, educational purposes
  • The nature of the copyrighted work: best if non-fiction and more like data than creative work;
  • The amount and substance used relative to the work as a whole: the smaller the amount, the better; and,
  • The effect on the potential market or value of the copyrighted work: the smaller the effect, the better.

Guidelines Regarding Copyright and Fair Use - Amherst University

Use of Copyrighted Works by Teachers and Students - Section 110

Section 110(1) of the Copyright Law allows for the performance and display of copy-righted works under certain conditions in a face-to face classroom setting.  The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act (section 101(2) of the copyright law) allows certain uses of copyrighted works by digital transmission in non-profit educational settings.

Copyright Law

This Subject Guide provides guidance on copyright law and the resources provided by the Library in assessing copyright issues. The Guide does not provide legal advice and should not be taken as such.