11-Copyright Basics

Exceptions to Copyright

U.S. Copyright Law includes exceptions that limit the rights of the copyright holder. These exceptions allow for certain uses of copyrighted material without seeking permission. Congress created these exceptions in order to balance the rights of creators and users and to enable some socially beneficial uses of copyrighted works.

Some of these exceptions are explained below.

Fair Use

Fair Use (Sec. 107) allows for various uses of copyrighted works. This is the most flexible of the exceptions in the copyright law and can apply in a wide variety of situations.

To learn more check out our section on Fair Use.

Reproduction for Libraries

Section 108 of the Copyright Act allows libraries and archives to make copies of copyrighted works under very specific conditions. For example, a patron can ask the library to make a copy of a journal article or portion of a book in the library’s collection as long as it is for the patron’s personal study.

First Sale Doctrine

The first sale doctrine (Sec. 109) allows you to distribute a legally acquired physical copy of a copyrighted work. This allows libraries to lend books and individuals to lend or sell used books, movies or CDs.

Classroom Display or Performance

Under Section 110(1) it is okay to display or perform copyrighted works in a face-to-face classroom setting at a non-profit educational institution. This allows a teacher to show a video or students to create and display multimedia projects in class. Section 110(2) allows for the display or performance of copyrighted works for distance learning (e.g. on a course management system), but you must fulfill many specific requirements in order to qualify for this exception.


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Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research by Teaching & Learning, Ohio State University Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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