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Copyright and Fair Use

This guide contains information and resources on copyright and fair use for Oxford College faculty and students.


U.S. copyright law is contained in Title 17 of the United States Code.

The Copyright Act of 1976 is a United States law and remains the primary basis of copyright law in the United States, as amended by several later enacted copyright provisions. The Act spells out the basic rights of copyright holders, codified the doctrine of "fair use," and for most new copyrights adopted a unitary term based on the date of the author's death rather than the prior scheme of fixed initial and renewal terms. It became Public Law number 94-553 on October 19, 1976 and went into effect on January 1, 1978.

Public Domain

The public domain refers to material not protected by copyright.  Anyone can use material in the public domain without permission.  Some material, such as that created by an employee of the U.S. federal government, in their official capacity, automatically enters the public domain upon creation.  However, most material enters the public domain due to the expiration of the copyright term.  Generally, any material published in the United States prior to 1923 or published outside the United States prior to 1909 is in the public domain and can be used without permission. 


If the copyrighted material you would like to use is not within the public domain and your use of the work is not fair use, permission must be obtained from the copyright owner.  In support of classroom instruction, the Provost's Office has generously created a special fund for the Libraries to pay for permissions.  This fund is separate from the budget for new library materials.  If a reserve assignment seems to exceed our guidelines, the Libraries will seek and pay applicable permissions fees on those materials as a service for the faculty.