Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Copyright & Fair Use Policy

Copyright law provides legal protection of "intellectual property" to the original author of the work; it is a federal law and the law does not vary from state to state. Copyright law has five exclusive rights of the copyrighted work:

  • Reproduction Right: the reproduction right is the right to copy, duplicate, transcribe, or imitate the work in fixed form.
  • Modification Right: the modification right (also known as the derivative works right) is the right to modify the work to create a new work. A new work that is based on a preexisting work is known as a "derivative work."
  • Distribution Right: the distribution right is the right to distribute copies of the work to the public by sale, rental, lease, or lending.
  • Public Performance Right: the public performance right is the right to recite, play, dance, act, or show the work at public place or to transmit it to the public. In the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, showing the work's images in sequence is considered "performance." Some types of works, such as sound recordings, do not have a public performance right.
  • Public Display Right: the public display right is the right to show a copy of the work directly or by means of a film, slide, or television image at a public place or to transmit it to the public. In the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, showing the work's images out of sequence is considered "display."

Copyright law has been augmented to include intellectual property in digital forms via the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

Fair use is a legal principle that provides certain limitations on the exclusive rights of copyright holders. There is no simple test to determine what is fair use. Section 107 of the Copyright Act sets forth the four fair use factors which should be considered in each instance, based on particular facts of a given case, to determine whether a use is a "fair use":

  • the purpose and character of 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 limitations and conditions set forth in these guidelines do not apply to works in the public domain -- such as U.S. Government works or works on which copyright has expired for which there are no copyright restrictions -- or to works for which the individual or institution has obtained permission for the particular use. Also, license agreements may govern the uses of some works and users should refer to the applicable license terms for guidance. In some cases, copyright holders may allow a "limited" public performance for nonprofit educational purposes. Contact the copyright holders to obtain any special permissions. A sample Copyright Permission Form Letter (Microsoft WORD file) is available to download.

Other resources include:

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The 1998 enactment of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) represents the most comprehensive reform of United States copyright law in a generation. The DMCA seeks to update U.S. copyright law for the digital age in preparation for ratification of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties.

Key among the topics included in the DMCA are provisions concerning the circumvention of copyright protection systems, fair use in a digital environment, and online service provider (OSP) liability (including details on safe harbors, damages, and "notice and takedown" practices). More information on these and other topics are available at the EducauseConnect website.


Last Update: 15 May 2013