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Copyright & Fair Use: Home

Special Research Guide - Topics and issues in Copyright


The purpose of this guide is to aid members of the Iona community in making decisions about how to legally use and distribute copyrighted materials of various mediums - i.e. articles, videos, books, sound recordings, etc - for academic use.

The law provides a lot of wiggle-room in this regard, however, there are certain considerations which should be kept in mind at all times, to ensure that Iona is not faced with a law suit.  Those considerations are outlined in this guide.

If you have further questions about the material addressed here, or are concerned about your own usage, please feel free to contact CELTIC (x2146).


The foundations of American copyright law rest on Article 1 of the US Constitution (Section 8, Clause 8), which grants Congress the power "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Tımes to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."1 Otherwise expressed, copyright "is a limited monopoly granted by the sovereign to the creator of a work"2 in order to "reward for the act of creation" and thereby encourage it.3

The exceptions which allow for the reproduction and redistribution of copyrighted materials for academic purposes are outlined in Section 107 of US Code Title 17: Limitations on Exclusive Rights for Fair Use. As defined, “fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and "transformative" purpose such as to comment upon, criticize or parody a copyrighted work.”4  This definition is open to interpretation, however, and it has been proposed that this ambiguity was intentional because the courts wanted to be “free to adapt [fair use] to particular situations on a case-by-case basis;” to judge its uses as complaints come up, keeping the following four factors in mind:

1. the purpose and character of your use
2. the nature of the copyrighted work 
3. the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and 
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market.5

As such, there are no hard-and-fast rules to follow when considering how to use resources for instructional purposes.  There are, however, guidelines to follow, and recommendations to take into consideration.  This guide attempts to outline the most pertinant of these considerations.

1. "The Constitution of the United States," Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8.
2. Peterson, G. M., T.H. Peterson and Society of American Archivists. 1985. Archives & Manuscripts, Law. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 81.
3. Hirtle, Peter. 21 August 2003. Archives or Assets?, 5.
Stanford University Libraries. 2010. “Chapter 9: What is Fair Use?” Copyright and Fair Use.  Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources; Justia; NOLO;; Onecle.
5. ibid.

Can I Use It?


The information contained in this guide should not be interpreted as a legal opinion or authorization for any specific action.

Watch This Video: Copyright on Campus

What is Copyright?

What Is Fair Use?

Copyright versus Plagiarism? Terms to Know

What is the difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism?

Ok - here's the deal - you can be accused of plagiarism if you copy portions of an author's work, which may or may not be copyrighted, without properly attributing the source/author. You can plagiarize works that are no longer in copyright or have been produced before Copyright law (1923), for example, such as Moby Dick. By claiming the authors words, original concept or ideas as your own or not properly attributing the author, you may be plagiarizing another's work. 

Plagiarism is unethical and promotes academic dishonesty. Copyright infringement can be illegal. Copyright infringement involves utilizing a copyrighted work beyond what is acceptable as "fair use" (a small percentage of a copyrighted work for classroom teaching purposes) without permission from the copyright holder.