Copyright law can be complex, boring, vague, and frustrating. However, all patrons are responsible for any infringement on copyright law (Title 17 U.S. Code) -- the law holds you accountable for complying with the law when you work with copyrighted materials.
This page introduces you to some general guidelines for actions are and are not allowed under copyright law.
Isn't educational use the same as fair use?
Unfortunately, no. Using an item for an educational only counts towards one factor of fair use; you must consider all four of the factors to make a fair use determination.
Is it always fair use to use 10% or less of a work?
No. Copyright law does not provide a percentage that would constitute fair use. Generally, the smaller the amount used, the more likely it is that the use is fair. However, the other factors must also be considered.
If something is freely online is it in the public domain?
No, it likely still has some sort of copyright protection. YouTube videos, blog posts, and even your class notes are automatically protected by copyright. That protection lasts for the life of the author plus seventy years! It's good practice to assume items you're using - whether print, audio, or video - have copyright protection.
Some authors and publishers are interested in loosening the restrictions that copyright law places on their readers. They may choose to offer their work under an open license, such as a Creative Commons license. These licenses allow people to re-use an original work, as long as certain criteria are met. Some authors may require re-users to use the materials only for non-commercial purposes, or to re-use it only without modifications. Many authors require re-users to attribute the material to the original author, which is a good scholarly practice anyway.
Some authors don’t want to place any restrictions on how their work is used. They may choose to dedicate the work to the public domain, for anybody to use as they see fit. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication is a popular way to do this.
Copyright law applies to “original works of authorship.” This includes creative and scholarly works, including books, articles, music, computer software, and movies. However, commonly known information, ideas, and short phrases are not covered by copyright law. To read more about what are considered original works of authorship, take a look at the Trotter Hardy’s overview of copyright and digital archives and the U.S. Copyright Office’s Copyright Basics document.
Some older works are no longer protected under copyright, and are considered part of the public domain. Almost all works published before 1923 are part of the public domain. Copyright law changed several times during the 20th century, and has special considerations for works published anonymously, unpublished work, and works that were not copyrighted properly. The U.S. Copyright Office offers a more detailed guide to the Duration of Copyright, and Cornell University offers a helpful chart on Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States.
You are free to reproduce and remix copyrighted materials if your use of the materials can be considered a "fair use." Copyright law offers four factors to determine whether your use is "fair" or not:
Copyright law doesn't provide specific numbers of pages that are okay (or not okay) to copy or scan. Instead, there are some broad guidelines. If you follow these guidelines, it's likely that you will be protected by the fair use doctrine:
According to LBCC Administrative Rules, each person is held individually responsible for following the established copyright policy and administrative rules. At LBCC, the Library has additional permissive uses of copyrighted materials. These provisions are contained in Section 108 of the US Copyright Law.
LBCC Policies Related to Copyright
For additional information please refer to LBCC's related Administrative Rules:
If you are a faculty member with questions about the ownership of your works, refer to the intellectual property section of your faculty contract.
Ask a librarian if you are not sure about copying or scanning. We cannot provide legal advice, but can listen and discuss your project that includes copyrighted materials.
However, since you are more familiar with your project than we are, you are in the best position to evaluate these factors and make a decision.
This site is intended for informational purposes only. Library staff cannot give legal advice. For legal advice, contact an intellectual property attorney.