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Copyright and Fair Use


Over the past several years, Michael Brewer and the  Copyright Advisory Subcommittee of the ALA Office for Information Technology  Policy have been developing tools to educate librarians, educators and others  about copyright. These now include the Public Domain slider, the Section 108 Spinner, the Fair Use Evaluator, and the Exceptions for Instructors eTool. These  tools are all available online for anyone to use or link to.

Using these educational tools can help educators and  others become more comfortable utilizing the limitations and exceptions to the  exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder under U.S. Copyright law. By  exercising these valuable exceptions, we strengthen copyright’s primary purpose–“to promote the progress of science and useful arts” (U. S.  Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8).

Currently, many smaller institutions may feel they do not  have the personnel or expertise to manage their institution’s use of  copyrighted material in any way other than using a one-size-fits-all,  guidelines-based approach. Other institutions simply abandon the educational  exceptions entirely and purchase a blanket license for through a clearinghouse rights provider like the Copyright Clearance Center. These tools can help your institution responsibly manage instructional or scholarly uses of copyrighted  materials (reserves, e-reserves, and materials used in-class or in hybrid/distance education, etc.). Urging faculty and instructors to use the tools during a fair use evaluation or to verify that their use of copyrighted material meets the requirements of the face to face teaching exception or the TEACH Act can be an  invaluable educational tool for faculty, students and staff.

Public Domain Slider

The Public Domain slider is a tool  to help determine the copyright status of a work that is first published in the  United States.  Most of us know that any work published before 1923 is in  the public domain, but the copyright status for copyrighted works after 1923  can be difficult to determine because of varying copyright registration  requirements over the years and because the term of copyright has changed a  number of times.  The good news is that there are many works in the public  domain that have been published after 1923 because registration was not renewed  and/or the copyright symbol – © – does not appear on the work.  If a work  is in the public domain, you are free to use that work in any way that you  choose – digitize it, re-publish it, post it on the web etc. – of course with  appropriate attribution.

For those works that are still protected by copyright, don’t forget to consider fair use (pdf) to determine if the work can be used in other, more limited  ways.

Section 108 Spinner

Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Code allows libraries  & archives, under certain circumstances, to make reproductions of  copyrighted materials without the permission of the copyright holder. This simple tool can help  you determine whether or not a particular reproduction is covered by this exemption.

Fair Use Evaluator

The Fair Use Evaluator is an  online tool that can help users understand how to determine if the use of a  protected work is a “fair use.” It helps users collect, organize, and  document the information they may need to support a fair use claim,  and  provides a time-stamped PDF document for the users’ records.  Exceptions for Instructors eTool          The Exceptions for Instructors eTool guides  users through the educational exceptions in U.S. copyright law, helping to  explain and clarify rights and responsibilities for the performance and  display of copyrighted content in traditional, distance and blended educational  models.

Copyright Genie

OK, so the Copyright Genie can't grant  copyright wishes, but it can take the magic out of copyright by:

Helping you find out if a work is covered by U.S. copyright
Calculating its terms of protection, and
Collecting and publishing the results (as a PDF) to save for your records or further vet with a copyright specialist.

*The Creative Commons  Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike license allows you to modify and use this  tool under specific circumstances. For more information, see: ALA web  copyright statement and release © Copyright 1996-2015, American Library  Association

NOTE: The content of these pages are to provide general information about copyright in the college environment.  They are not intended as legal advice.  Legal advice must be provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship that specifically focuses on all the facts of the particular situation for which legal advice is sought.  You must not use the information presented here as a substitute for a licensed attorney.

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