Copyright is a form of legal protection for original works, both published and unpublished. The US Copyright Office has published a brochure that explains copyright basics. They also have a FAQ page on their website that explains some of the most common questions that come up regarding copyright. The complete version of US Copyright law can also be found on the same website. 

The Columbia University Libraries/Information Services has one of the most helpful and informative websites on Copyright, including information on permissions and fair use.


It's not always easy to know if something is covered by copyright. Here are some tools that can assist you when determining the copyright status of an item:

The Copyright Genie is a website that was created by Michael Brewer and the American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy. This site asks several questions, and walks you through a decision-making process to determine if something is copywritten. 

The Library Copyright Digital Slider was also created by Michael Brewer and the American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy. This site is handy for determining at a quick glance if something is in the public domain or not. 


The Fair Use Doctrine was added to Section 107 of the Copyright Law in 1976. It allows for using portions of copyrighted works, but does not give specific paramenters. This can be problematic - how do you know what falls under "fair use" and was does not? 

There are four factors of Fair Use and they are outlined in Section 107 of the Copyright Law: 

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
the nature of the copyrighted work;
the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The American Library Association and Michael Brewer have put together a Fair Use Evaluator. This website will walk you through the process of understanding the "fairness" of a use, collect the information you might need if you have to defend your use, as well as provides educational materials for further exploration.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services has put together a Fair Use Checklist that can help you determine if your inteded use falls under "Fair Use." 


EDUCAUSE has compiled several reserouces around copyright and education, including current news, research, and guidelines. 

The Center for Social Media offers several resources for fair use teaching tools. 

PBS SoCal has put together a website with several resources specifically for educators. It covers copyright, fair use, and teaching. Learn more through videos, checklists, and quizes.


Georgia State University was taken to court by several publishers regarding the use of copyrighted materials in e-reserves. The court decided in the favor of fair use and of GSU. EDUCAUSE has compiled several resources pertaining to the case. 

Google Books vs. The Author's Guild - quite possibly the most talked about copyright and fair use case in recent history! After over 8 years of litigation, the courts have ruled that the Google Books Scanning Project does not violate copyright law. From a press release put out by the Library Copyright Alliance
"In his dismissal of the case, Judge Chin enumerated the public benefits of Google Book Search by calling the project transformative and a fair use under the copyright law."

Harvard Business Review recently enacted very strict restrictions on how their most popular articles may be used. The American Library Association has issued a statement about how this will be detrimental to scholarship and research. HBR is continuing to support the changes. 

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