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Copyright & Fair Usage

What is copyright?

Copyright provide an author or creator the ability to control how their work is used. It also provides an financial motivation to produce original works. The 1976 Copyright Act states, "Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device." (US Code, Title 17, Section 102) 

*Source: (University of Maryland University College & Harford Community College) 


What types of works are copyright protect?

literary works;

musical works, including any accompanying words;

dramatical works, including any accompanying music;

pantomimes and choreographic works;

pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;

motion pictures and other audiovisual works;

sound recordings; and

architectural works (US Code, Title 17, Section 102)

Source: (Harford Community College)


What is fair use?

Fair use is a check on a copyright holder's exclusive rights, which allows the use of copyrighted work for nonprofit or educational purposes. The fair use exemption states that "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." (US Code, Title 17, Section 107)

*Sources: (University of Maryland University College & Harford Community College)


What can be copied?

  • A chapter from a book (Never the entire book).
  • An article from a periodical or newspaper.
  • A short story, essay, or poem.
  • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper.
  • Poetry (Multiple copies of a poem of 250 words or less that exist on two pages or less or 250 words from a longer poem).
  • Prose (Multiple copies of an article, story or essay that are 2,500 words or less or excerpts up to 1,000 words or 10 percent of the total work, whichever is less.
  • Illustrations ( Multiple copies of a chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture contained in a book or periodical issue).


*Source: (University of Maryland University College)


What should be avoided?

  • Making multiple copies of different works that could substitute for the purchase of books, publisher's reprints, or periodicals.
  • Copying the same works from semester to semester.
  • Copying the material for several different courses at the same or different institutions.
  • Copying more than nine separate times in a single semester.


*Source: (University of Maryland University College)


When is permission required?

  • When you intend to use the material for commercial purposes
  • When you want to use the materials repeatedly.
  • When you want to use a work in its entirety and it is longer than 2,500 words.


*Source: (University of Maryland University College)



Harford Community College. " Copyright Basics." Harford Community College Library.

Harford Community Collge Library. 2009. 7 Sept. 2010.


University of Maryland University College. "Copyright and Fair Use in the Classroom, on the Internet, and the World Wide Web." Information and Library Services.

University of Maryland University College. 2010. 24 Aug. 2010.


*Copyright and Fair Use in the Classroom, on the Internet, and the World Wide Web used with permission, Information and Library Services, University of Maryland University College, Adelphi, MD.


Additional Resources