Copyright and Fair Use Basics

District Dispatch - ALA Washington Office

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Copyright law

Copyright law protects "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression" for a limited time. 17 U.S.C. §102The express purpose of U.S. copyright law is to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" and is meant to foster the discovery of new knowledge and the creation of new works. United States Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 8.

Copyright protection applies to literary works, music, performances, images, architectural and sculptural works, and movies, both in traditional mediums (books, photographs) and in digital formats (electronic journals, web sites, digital sound recordings).

Why should copyright matter to me?

Copyright law affects the CF community in diverse ways. A faculty member authoring an article or book, a staff member using the copy machine, a student doing research or sharing information, and an online instructor uploading course materials are all held to the principles of copyright law.


This guide is informational only, communicating copyright basics and safe practices related to copyright law for educational purposes, and is no substitute for legal counsel or advice. If you require legal advice regarding copyright, please contact an attorney. The CF Libraries are not responsible for the content of third party sites linked to in this guide.