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About Copyright Law

Copyright Law

Copyright law originated in England in the early 1700s.  It was included in the U.S. Constitution and granted Congress the authority "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts" by allowing authors and inventors a limited time to have exclusive rights over their work.  The 1976 Copyright Act, as outlined in Title 17 of the United States Code (USC), is the current law which defines copyright, what types of works are protected, and exceptions or limitations on copyright.  

Exceptions.  Copyright exceptions, also known as exemptions or limitations of exclusive rights, are part of the copyright law that allow some use of copyrighted works without permission of the copyright owner or holder.  Commonly known exceptions include fair use, libraries and archives exceptions, and in-class performance, each of which are highly used in colleges and universities.  Benefits of exceptions include the promotion of free speech, support for teaching and learning, the creation of new works, and promotion of culture and its expression.

Case Law.  Court cases are highly important to learn about current applications and interpretations in all aspects of copyright law.  Familiarity with these can help determine ways copyright may (or may not) be applied in various circumstances.  While doing this takes additional time and effort, it typically leads to a better understanding and application of copyright.   

Copyright in Colleges and Universities.  Copyright is highly relevant in colleges and universities because inventions, publications, and creative works are highly reused for reasons ranging from citing books or publications, repurposing works, and for teaching and instructional purposes.  This Research Guide provides links to authoritative sources that explain various aspects of copyright law and includes links that do this in plain language.  This guide also provides links to the Libraries' legal information sources such as WestLaw and NexisUni that are available to FAU affiliates.

Disclaimer: The FAU Libraries and its faculty, staff, and administration are not attorneys and cannot interpret the law.  This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not substitute for advice from legal counsel.

Related Guides

Sections and Exceptions

Copyright law consists of many sections that cover various topics.  The law includes limitations on exclusive rights known as exemptions (also known as exceptions) that allow copyrighted works to be reused without permission under certain conditions; the following exceptions marked with are most frequently used in library and education settings. The links in blue lead to respective part of current US copyright law:

Section 101 Definition
Sections 102 - 105 Subject matter(s) of copyright
Section 106 Exclusive rights in copyrighted works
Section 107* Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use*
Section 108*

Limitations on exclusive rights: Reproduction by libraries and archives*
108(d & e): Interlibrary Loan*

Section 109*
First Sale Doctrine

Limitations on exclusive rights: Effect of transfer of particular copy or phonorecord*

Section 110*
In-Class Performance

Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays
110(1): Class use (also known as Classroom Exception)*
110(2): TEACH Act
110(2)d: TEACH Act provisions

Section 121*

Limitations on exclusive rights: Reproduction for blind or other people with disabilities*
Section 121ALimitations on exclusive rights: Reproduction for blind or other people with disabilities in Marrakesh Treaty countries*

Section 1201* Circumvention of copyright protection systems (also known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act)

Source:  U.S. Copyright Office (2016).  Copyright law of the United States


US copyright law also defines copyright infringement and remedies, or what could happen if a copyright is violated.

Legal Information Sources

Federal Laws

State Laws

US Copyright Office Information

Need legal assistance with copyright?

Current FAU faculty, students, and staff:  Contact the Division of Research's Office of Technology Development who may advise on your intellectual property. 

General Public:  We cannot recommend a particular lawyer or attorney in intellectual property or copyright, but here are some links that can assist you with identifying and getting in contact with one.

Last updated on Feb 29, 2024 9:22 AM