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Drexel Library

Copyright: FAQ: Home

Answering your questions about use of copyrighted material for teaching, learning and research.

Drexel University Libraries and Copyright

Drexel University Libraries abides by United States copyright law and seeks to protect the rights of authors and creators while furthering the University's mission of teaching and knowledge creation. The balance between the rights and commercial interests of copyright holders and access to information by the public and especially by the academic and research community forms the basis for copyright legislation.

What is copyright?

Copyright is the legal application of certain rights given to the creators of original works for a limited time. These rights prohibit unauthorized copying, distribution, or performance of such works, except as provided under "fair use". ( See U.S. Code Title 17 .) Currently copyright is granted for the life of the author/creator, plus 75 years. Materials published in the United States since 1923 are considered protected by copyright, except for those published by the federal government or by most states which are in the "public domain".

What is fair use?

In Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, Congress codified the doctrine of "fair use." Fair use allows reasonable use of a work without permission for specified purposes, including scholarship, teaching and research:

    § 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

    Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

  • 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    The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

How do I get permission to use copyrighted material?

The process of getting permission to use a copyrighted work will vary depending on the type of materials.  For most research and teaching purposes, such as putting print or electronic material on reserve, quoting a work in a publication, or copying short excerpts for in-class distribution, "fair use" will likely apply. In other cases, the best first step is to contact the publisher or copyright holder.

How do I secure copyright for something I have written or created?

"Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright," according to the U.S. Copyright Office.

Technically, in other words, you don't have to do anything. If you wish to formally register, instructions and application forms are available from the U. S. Copyright Office .

See our "Author's Rights" guide for more information about negotiation of copyright ownership with publishers.

What is Drexel University Libraries' copyright policy for Course Reserves?

Pursuant to the federal Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code), it is preemptively unlawful to reproduce, distribute, or publicly display any copyrighted work (or any substantial portion thereof) without the permission of the copyright owner. The statute, however, recognizes a fair use defense that has the effect of excusing an act of copyright infringement. It is the intention of the Libraries to act within the parameters of the fair use defense in allowing limited posting of copyrighted materials in Electronic Course Reserve. It is the intention of the Library, moreover, that such materials be made available solely for the purposes of private study, scholarship, and research, and that any further reproduction of such materials by students, by printing or downloading, be limited to such purposes. Any further reproduction of copyrighted materials made from this computer system may be in violation of copyright laws and is prohibited.


Essential Web Sites for Copyright Information

Due to new technologies and competing interests, copyright law has become more complex and is subject to regular revision. See the web sites linked here for more information and updates on copyright issues.

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