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Copyright and Author Rights

This guide is designed to provide information about copyright and fair use in an academic setting, and to provide guidance on finding and using materials in in-person, online, and hybrid courses.


The information listed in this guide is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to replace the advice of legal counsel.


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Andrea Wirth

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. Copyright gives authors exclusive rights to their creative works (with some limitations) and applies to "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression."


Section 106 of the Copyright Law of the United States, describes exclusive rights in copyrighted works.

Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

  1. to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
  2. to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
  3. to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  4. in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;
  5. in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and
  6. in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission

Why Care About Copyright?

Research activity is a result of hard work, study, and research. The more your article is read and cited, the greater the value. Copyright affects both access to and the impact of your work.

As an author, you will likely encounter copyright agreements and which typically ask that you transfer some or all of your exclusive rights to a publisher. For example, you may transfer rights to:

  • reproduce the work in copies

  • prepare derivative works based upon the work

  • distribute copies of the work to the public

  • display the work publicly

As a researcher, you will likely be building upon the work of others and therefore be citing their prior work.  Be sure and take a look at the resources in this guide that can help you determine whether your use is fair or otherwise allowed under copyright law, or whether you should seek permission to use a copyrighted work in your research.

For more information on Author Rights, see the Author Rights page of this guide.

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