United States Copyright Law
- United States Copyright Office
See their FAQ
- Copyright and Fair Use from Stanford University Libraries
- Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians (PDF)
- Digital Millenium Copyright Act (PDF)
The Federal government was given the authority to grant copyright to its citizens in Article I | Section 8 | Clause 8 of the United States Constitution:
[The Congress shall have power] "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;"
The United States Congress has passed several copyright acts that are published in Title 17 of the US Code. The current copyright act was passed in 1976 and became effective in 1978. It provides the owner of a copyright with the exclusive rights to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, to perform and to display his or her work, provided that it is an original work of authorship in a fixed format. While section 106 of Title 17 calls these rights "exclusive," they are subject to limitations made in section 107 through section 120 which exempt users from copyright infringement in certain circumstances. These limitations include fair use, educational use, and library use.
In most instances, Title 17 of the US Code does not provide us with exact numbers and/or percentages that would explicitly state when the use of a copyrighted work crosses the line between "fair use" and copyright infringement. Therefore, guidelines have been developed by many interested parties to clarify in detail when the use of a copyrighted work may be considered "fair use" and when that use is an infringement of the copyright. These guidelines are meant to give a minimum "safe harbor" and are not meant to supersede or replace the actual Copyright Law as codified in Title 17 of the US Code or subsequent laws concerning copyright. Those guidelines which have been reviewed by Congress and agreed to by many divergent interested parties have been given more weight than those created by an organization or organizations with a particular self-interest. In addition, as courts decide on infringement cases, their rulings guide the interpretation of Copyright Law and can provide us with the explicit limits of the "fair use" provisions of the Copyright Law.
The Kalamazoo College Copyright Policies have been developed to adhere to the principles established by Title 17 of the US Code. Numbers and percentages have been taken from guidelines that are broadly accepted by educational organizations, publishing interests, as well as groups representing the authors and inventors of writings, creations, and discoveries.
Finally, the current copyright law was created in an era of photocopy machines and analog recorders. Current technology, especially the growth of digital mediums and the Internet, is causing our government to revisit our Copyright Law and offer changes and addendums. Therefore, our policies will continue to be revisited and updated as new laws are passed, treaties signed, and court cases decided.