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Copyright Information

Copyright Basics

The purpose of copyright is to benefit the public by advancing the progress of science and the useful arts.  (U.S. Constitution, Art. 1, Section 8)  Copyright law is created by the U.S. Congress (Title 17, U.S. Code) and is balanced by copyright holder rights and user exemptions

Exclusive rights of copyright holders include:

  • the right to reproduce in copies
  • the right to distribute to the public
  • the right to create derivative works based on the original
  • the right to display publicly
  • the right to perform publicly

Copyright exemptions (limits on copyright) include:

  • first sale (transfer of lawfully acquired copy)
  • fair use
  • photocopying for libraries and archives
  • teaching exemptions (public performance and display)

Because copyright is a limited, statutory monopoly, copyright protection eventually ends--public domain materials belong to everyone and to no one.


Adapted from the book, Complete Copyright: An everyday guide for librarians, by Carrie Russell.