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Copyrights and Fair Use

A Primer for Students, Faculty, and Staff

The limitations and rights that scholars and students have under United States Copyright Law are frequently misunderstood. The following information summarizes these limitations and rights and provides the University of Charleston community with a central location for copyright information, information on UC policies, and links to further resources on the web about copyright, fair use, and related issues.

The basis under which Congress propagates copyright law is laid out in the U.S. Constitution which gives Congress the authority:

“To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8 

What Is Copyright?

United States copyright law is intended to encourage the production of creative and scientific works by ensuring that the producer of said works has the exclusive right to profit from the use of these works. Specifically, among other rights, this grants the copyright holder the specific right to make copies of their creations. Other rights given to the copyright holder are the right to create derivative works based on their work, the right to distribute their work, and the rights to control public display or performance of their work.

Fair Use

Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act deals with what are commonly known as the Fair Use provisions. These provisions allow for limited uses of copyrighted materials without the permission or notification of the copyright holder. While there are no steadfast rules that determine if a potential use is a Fair Use, four factors must be taken into account any time a use is being considered.

These factors are:

  • Purpose and nature of the proposed use
  • Nature of the copyrighted work
  • Amount and substance of the section to be used
  • The effect that the proposed use would have on the future marketability of the work

What About the Public Domain?

It is not necessary to obtain any copyright permissions for works that have entered the public domain. When a work will enter the public domain varies based on when the work was created and whether the copyright holder had applied for the appropriate copyright extensions in the past. Review the chart from the University of North Carolina to see if a work you wish to use might be in the public domain, or speak to a librarian.

Faculty Issues

In order to abide by the provisions laid out in the U.S. Copyright Act and other applicable laws the University of Charleston, Schoenbaum Library has developed the following policies regarding copyright.

Reserves and Copyright

In general, the library will be able to honor your requests to place materials on reserve for use by students in your classes. Certain restrictions do apply.

  • We usually will place an original copy of material that either the library or the professor owns on reserve.
  • Copies of articles from journals or book chapters may only be placed on reserve for a single semester.  It is expected that if an instructor wishes to use an article or chapter over a number of semesters that they obtain clearance from the copyright holder.
  • No more than one copy of a chapter of a book may be copied and placed on reserve.
  • Only a single copy of an article from a particular issue of a journal or magazine may be placed on reserve.
  • Workbooks, test booklets, and other consumables are not appropriate to be placed on reserve as their placement would negatively impact the marketability of the item.
  • In most cases where an article is available in full-text through one of our online databases we will not place that item on reserve.  Instructors should instead provide students with a link to the article or a citation.

Copyright Resources