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Copyright and Fair Use: Introduction

**This guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel**


copyright symbol  Copyright and Fair Use 

Welcome! This guide provides information and resources on copyright law and how it relates to academic activities such as research, teaching, and publication.

This guide is meant to be a basic introduction to U.S. copyright law -- what it protects, how long it lasts, the rights it grants to authors, and its exceptions and limitations. 

Other parts of this guide provide further information on:

  • understanding and applying Fair Use
  • best practices
  • tools to help understand what to do when 

Copyright law affects numerous aspects of academic life -- if you don't find the answers you need here, please contact your attorney! 


A BIG thank you to Kate Borowske at Hamline University who graciously gave permission to use her template for this guide.

In A Nut-Shell



Copyright is:

  • Federal law codified in Title 17 of the United States Code
  • Automatically generated whenever an original and "minimally" creative work is rendered in tangible form
  • An exclusive bundle of rights that allow you to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, or adapt your work
  • Maximized if you include a copyright symbol ©, year of publication, and your name
  • Increased if you register your work with the US Copyright Office (super important in litigation!)


Copyright protection is NOT

  • Applicable to works created by an employee of the US Government, acting within the scope of officialduties
  • Assigned to ideas, facts, theorems, laws of nature, punctuation, patents, trademarks, and lots of other categories
  • FOREVER -- however, copyright lasts a really, long time, so it feels like forever! 
  • Easy to understand


Fair use is:

  • An exception to copyright
  • Allowed under Section 107 of the US Copyright Act of 1976
  • Decided on a case to case basis
  • Unpredictable


"Walnuts" by RustedStrings,CC: BY-SA, 3.0

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Laura Gricius-West
Saint Anselm College | Geisel Library
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Subjects: Classics, Philosophy