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University at Buffalo Libraries

Copyright Facts

The owner of a copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work and to distribute it to the public by sale, rental, lease, or lending. Original works of authorship in any format may be copyrighted, including literary, musical, pictorial, and audiovisual works, as well as computer programs and software.

Generally, a work is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is given a term enduring for the author's life plus an additional 70 years after the author's death. For works made for hire, the duration of copyright is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.

Both published and unpublished works may be copyrighted. The fact that a work is "out of print" does not affect its copyright.


Notice of Copyright

Notice of copyright generally appears on the title page of a volume or verso. It may take one of three forms: the word "Copyright," the symbol ©, or the abbreviation "Copr." The form used is followed by the publication date and the names of the copyright owner. For all formats, the copyright notice may appear either on the item or on the container. The absence of a copyright notice does not necessarily mean that the work may be freely copied.

The notice of Copyright is sometimes followed by the statement: "All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher."


"Fair Use" of Copyrighted Material

Representatives of publishers, authors, and educators agreed on minimum standards of educational fair use of copyrighted materials in a 1976 "Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-For-Profit Educational Institutions with Respect to Books and Periodicals." According to these Guidelines, a single copy may be made of any of the following by a teacher or student for scholarly research, study, or use in teaching or preparing a class:

  • a chapter from a book
  • a single article from a periodical or newspaper issue
  • a short story, short essay, or short poem
  • a chart, graph, diagram, cartoon, or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper

The guidelines for multiple copies for classroom are more restrictive. "Educational use" alone is not sufficient to qualify as "Fair use." If a teacher is "inspired" to use a work in class and the moment of use is so close in time that it is unreasonable to receive a timely reply for permission from the copyright holder, then copies may be made under the following guidelines:

  • a complete article is less than 2,500 words in length
  • an excerpt of a prose work is no longer than 10% of the work or 1,000 words, whichever is shorter
  • a short poem or excerpt of a poem is no longer than 250 words or no more than one article, story, poem, or essay, or two excerpts are from the same author

Violations of the Copyright Law

Regardless of the above, the following copying activities are always prohibited:

  • copying to create, replace, or substitute for anthologies, compilations, or collective works
  • copying of or from a work intended to be "consumable in the course of study, including workbooks, exercises, standardized tests, answer sheets, etc.
  • copying to substitute for the purchase of books or periodicals
  • copying in excess of "Fair Use" even when directed by a higher authority, such as a dean or department chairperson
  • copying of the same item by the same teacher from term to term, without permission
  • copying with any charges to students beyond the cost of photocopying

Violators of the Copyright Laws are subject to heavy fines (up to $100,000) and/or imprisonment. Individuals as well as institutions can be sued.


The Copyright Law and Library Services

Photocopy, Reserve, and Interlibrary Loan services are affected by the Copyright Law. "Fair Use" standards (detailed above) apply to these services.

Photocopying: All unsupervised, public-access photocopy equipment in the Libraries displays a warning concerning copyright infringement. Notice: The copyright law of the United States (Title 17 U.S. Code) governs the making of photocopies of copyrighted material. The person using this equipment is liable for infringement.

Reserve The most pertinent "Fair Use" standards which apply to Reserve services are the general restrictions to a single copy of a publication, the length limitations of copied material, and the prohibitions against the creation of "anthologies" and the copying of "consumable" works. When materials are placed on reserve for extremely large classes, it is possible, at the discretion of the library personnel, to place on reserve more than one copy (not to exceed five copies, depending on the size of the class). Faculty should discuss each situation with library personnel at the unit in which the reserve materials will be placed.

Interlibrary Loan The Libraries are prohibited from requesting copies of more than five articles from any journal title during its last five years of publication, unless the Libraries hold a subscription or an order for the journal has been placed. The five article limitation applies whether the copies are the same article or different articles. A person requesting copies which would cause the Libraries to exceed this restriction is responsible for obtaining permission from the copyright holder.


For More Information or to Obtain Permission to Copy Copyrighted Material

For more information on the Copyright law please visit the U.S. Copyright Office website.

To obtain permission to copy copyrighted materials you can write to the holder of copyright of the needed material or you may request permission on-line through the Copyright Clearance Center.