Skip to Main Content

Copyright & Fair Use: Getting Started

A guide to copyright law as it pertains to research, art work, and education.

Copyright & Reproductions

The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Read the complete Copyright Law of the United States and all its amendments and related laws (Title 17, United States Code).

Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement. 

Cazenovia College's Witherill Library reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is a federal law that grants (for a limited time) exclusive rights to authors of original, creative works fixed in a tangible medium of expression. It is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to creators over their intellectual property, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. It also provides exceptions to those exclusive rights under certain circumstances.

What Works Are Protected?

Examples of copyrightable works include:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works, including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings, which are works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds
  • Architectural works
What Is Not Protected by Copyright?

Copyright does not protect:

  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, or discoveries
  • Works that are not fixed in a tangible form (such as a choreographic work that has not been notated or recorded or an improvisational speech that has not been written down)
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans
  • Familiar symbols or designs
  • Mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring
  • Mere listings of ingredients or contents

Related Terms

Attribution: the action of ascribing a work or remark to a particular author, artist, or person. For example: in-text citations and the reference list/bibliography of a research paper.

Copyright Infringement: as a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.

Derivative Work: a work based upon one or more preexisting works. For example: a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications, which, as a whole represent an original work of authorship, is a "derivative work".

Intellectual Property: a work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as a manuscript or a design, to which one has rights and for which one may apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, etc.

License: a right that gives a person or entity permission to do something that would be illegal if the person or entity did not have such permission. Usually the scope of the permission excludes ownership rights or privileges.

Important Copyright Concepts


In December of 2020, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act was passed into law. This new chapter (Chapter 15) of the U.S. copyright law (Title 17, United States Code) created the Copyright Claims Board (CCB). The CCB is a three-member tribunal within the Copyright Office that "will provide an efficient and user-friendly option to resolve certain copyright disputes" (U.S. Copyright Office, n.d., para. 1). Please note that participation in CCB proceedings is voluntary: if a claim is made against you, you have 60 days to opt-out. If you opt-out, the person making a claim against you may then choose to file a copyright lawsuit against you in federal court instead. If you do not opt-out before the deadline, you lose your opportunity to have the dispute decided by a court (Benson & Myers, 2022).


Benson, S., Myers, C., & Vollmer, T. (2022). CASE Act: Implications for college and research libraries. College & Research Libraries News, 83(5), 214. doi:

U.S. Copyright Office. (n.d.). Copyright Small Claims and the Copyright Claims Board.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that provides free copyright licenses. Creators can choose and apply the licenses to their works to give the public permission to share and use the work following the conditions specified

Fair Use

Fair use is a defense to copyright infringement that allows certain persons or entities to use, access, copy, distribute, remix, publicly perform, or publicly display limited portions of protected material for certain purposes. Under the fair use doctrine, you may be able to use copyright protected work without having to receive the copyright owner's permission or pay them. Clear rules do not exist for interpreting what exact uses constitute fair use, thus it is a judgment call and ultimately it would be up to a court of law to determine whether a use is considered fair or not.

Per Section 107 of U.S. copyright law (Title 17), "Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors".

Open Scholarship

Open Scholarship means sharing research and knowledge. Open access (copyrighted items made available at no charge by the publisher), open data, open educational resources (copyrighted instructional items you are given permission to use by the creator), and open source software share this common principle.

Public Domain

Items not protected by copyright law due to ineligibility, author intent, or status. A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.


On November 2nd, 2002, the "Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act" (the TEACH Act), part of the larger Justice Reauthorization legislation (H.R. 2215), was signed into law by President Bush.

The TEACH Act redefines the terms and conditions on which accredited, nonprofit educational institutions throughout the U.S. may use copyright protected materials in distance education (including on websites and by other digital means) without permission from the copyright owner and without payment of royalties.

Chat with a Librarian

Library FAQ

Ask a Librarian

Circulation Desk

Contact the Circulation Desk when the library is open for general questions about hours, renewals, etc.
Phone: 315-655-7240

Or, email us anytime at

Library Hours of Operation

Hours of Operation
Semester Hours

Monday - Thursday: 7:45 a.m. - midnight

Friday: 7:45 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Saturday: 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Sunday: 2:00 p.m. - midnight

In the event of severe weather, please contact the library to confirm our hours.
Chat with a Librarian Hours
Semester Hours

Monday - Thursday: 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Friday: 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Sunday: 4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

When chat is offline, you can get help by searching our Library FAQ knowledge base or submitting your question to