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Faculty Resources: Copyright & Fair Use


This guide is intended to aid members of the Iona community in making decisions about the legal use and distribution of copyrighted materials in various formats - i.e. articles, video, books, sound recordings, etc - for academic use.

Please contact Jill Gross (x2353) or Tony Iodice (x2347) for more information.


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  The ambiguity in this definition, it has been speculated, may have been intentional to leave courts “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

There are guidelines and best practices to consider.  This guide attempts to outline the most pertinent 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.


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

Copyright versus Plagiarism?

What is the difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism?

Plagiarism is an unethical act of academic dishonesty. Copyright infringement can be illegal. Copyright infringement involves utilizing a copyrighted work beyond what is acceptable as "fair use" without the permission of the copyright holder.