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Copyright Fundamentals

The copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code) affords a form of protection to “original works of authorship.”  Works such as literary works, musical works, dramatic works, graphic works, and audiovisual works are all protected under the copyright law.  However, Title 17 does allow for some uses of these works without author permission.  For example, two are: Fair Use (Section 107) and Reproduction by Libraries (Section 108).
What is fair use?
Fair use allows reproduction of copyrighted works for the purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.
What determines fair use?
The law does not give specific guidelines. The factors contributing to fair use must be considered individually and then weighed against one another to determine fair use. When deciding whether use of material qualifies for fair use, consider the following:

  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.

Obviously, any commercial use of a work would be considered outside the definition of Fair Use. If the purpose of copying is for criticism, news reporting, comment, teaching, research or scholarship, this weighs in favor of fair use. If access is limited to classroom or password protected, it further weighs toward fair use. The less that is copied the more likely the use would constitute Fair Use.  If copying the work has an adverse effect on the market, this will weigh against fair use.

Students and faculty should be aware of the limitations of the Fair Use criteria and limit their reproduction of original works accordingly.  If any student or faculty has a question about copyright infringement, please contact the Bethel College library for further clarification.

If fair use criteria do not apply, how do I obtain permission to use copyrighted materials?
Permission to use copyrighted materials must be obtained if the criteria for fair use cannot be met. Permission must be obtained from the copyright holder.
The Copyright Office offers Circular 22: How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work to assist copyright research. The Copyright Clearance Center provides an extensive database and quick turnaround time for copyright permissions for photocopies, electronic postings, and republications.