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Copyright & Educational Fair Use: Home

This guide is a resource on copyright and fair use compliance for students, staff, and faculty at Nebraska Methodist College. It is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice.


Welcome to John Moritz Library's Copyright & Educational Fair Use LibGuide. This resource is designed to provide educators information on copyright and related topics that is concise, well-organized, and easy to navigate. The information provided here does not purport to supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.

"Everyone tries to define this thing called character. It's not hard. Character is doing what's right when nobody's lookin'." ..... J. C. Watts

Copyright Law

Copyright law governs who may use original works of authorship and how such works may be used. Copyright law is rooted in the United States Constitution’s Copyright Clause (Article I, section 8, clause 8) which describes the power of Congress 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 Copyright Law of the United States is contained in Title 17 of the United States Code.

Given that the advancement of knowledge is inherent to copyright, there are specific limitations to the rights of copyright holders. At the same time, anyone wishing to use someone else's intellectual work (for example, in a paper or other publication; as a classroom handout; or even as material on a website), must respect the rights of copyright holders. The mix of rights and limitations creates a subjective and uneasy balance in copyright. The purpose of this guide is to provide information that will help educators and students alike find the correct balance.

NMC Core Values encourage and support the ethical use of information. 

We expect the best from everyone and hold ourselves to the highest ideals of personal, professional and organizational performance.

We embrace the experiential process by which knowledge, insight, understanding and ultimately wisdom are created for ourselves and those we serve.

We recognize and uphold the dignity and self-worth of every human being, and promote honest and forthright interpersonal communication and behaviors.


Fair use, a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work, is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders. (Wikipedia)

Sections 107-122 of U. S. copyright law spell out limitations to copyright holders’ rights.  Of particular importance to educators are: 


Stated Limitations


Permits the “fair use” of an owner’s work without permission for the purpose of “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.” See the Fair Use tab for the four factors that must be considered in fair use evaluations.


Permits a library or archive to reproduce works for archiving purposes, to make copies for patrons, and to participate in interlibrary loan, all without permission.


Permits individuals to lend, give, or sell copies of works lawfully owned without the permission of the copyright holder.  This is known as the First Sale Doctrine.


Permits displays of work and educational performances in face-to-face teaching and in distance education.


Permits reproduction of works for the visually impaired or with other disabilities without permission of the copyright holder.

Public domain refers to the total absence of copyright protection for creative work (such as a book, painting, photograph, movie, poem, article, piece of music, product design, or computer program). (LINFO)

Copyright law also exempts works that are in the public domain due to:
•  Expiration of copyright term
•  Copyright was never secured
•  Work was published by the U. S. Government

Creative Commons identifies 5 things not covered by copyright in the public domain.


The verb license means to give permission. The noun licence refers to that permission as well as to the document recording that permission. Licence may be granted by a party ("licensor") to another party ("licensee") as an element of an agreement between the parties.

A licence may be issued to allow an activity that would otherwise be forbidden. It may require paying a fee and/or proving a capability. The requirement may also serve to keep the authorities informed on a type of activity, and to give them the opportunity to set conditions and limitations. A licensor may grant licence under intellectual property laws to authorize a use (such as copying software or using a (patented) invention) to a licensee, sparing the licensee from a claim of infringement brought by the licensor. (Wikipedia)

Members of a higher education community may use licensed works (e.g. databases, e-journals, e-books, etc.) according to the terms of the license. Consult with library staff for specifics.