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Copyright & Plagiarism   

Copyright Issues 
    Fair Use  
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Copyright Issues -- Fair Use:

Traditionally, Copyright Law was intended to further the free exchange of ideas by providing protections and rights to both the creators and publishers as well as to libraries, educators, students and others who might make use of such books, plays, images, etc. that have been created and distributed. 

Section 107 of Title 17, US Code, sets out what has been called the Fair Use Doctrine, which gives the circumstances under which copyrighted works can be freely used: 

“. . .the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies. . .for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright (emphasis added). 

The section goes on to identify a 4-factor analysis by which users can determine whether or not they are violating copyright law. Unfortunately, questions arising from uses of electronic resources and distance education are calling fair use into question. Both copyright and fair use are currently being redefined and will in all likelihood change. For the present, though, there are some rules of thumb for fair use in the library: 

Four-Factor Analysis

  1. What is the character of the use? --Educational, non-profit uses are clearly protected under fair use.
  2.  What is the nature of the work to be used?--Fact-based information leans toward fair use, works of fiction lean against fair use.
  3. How much of the work will be used?--In educational settings, one chapter from a book or one entire article from a journal are acceptable.
  4. If this kind of use were widespread, what effect would it have on the market?--This is the real gray area; yet since the other factors usually weigh in favor of educational fair use, this one can usually be disregarded. 

There was a well-known lawsuit against Texaco that challenged our understanding of fair use. Since Texaco is a commercial enterprise, most libraries feel safe in continuing to apply fair use broadly. But it is well to be aware of the possible challenge to fair use as we understand it. 

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Last update 09/23/2009 Sue Chen