Best Practices in Fair Use
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Copyright and Scholarship  

Copyright and scholarly communication information for the Boston College community.
Last Updated: Apr 16, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Introduction Print Page

Use of the Guide

The purpose of this guide is to give guidance for resolving basic copyright questions.

The guide includes information on:

Key Concepts


Types of Content

This guide is designed to provide basic, general information about copyright, and does not constitute legal advice.  The links to third party sites in this guide are provided for your convenience.  Boston College does not take responsibility for the content of these other sites.  If you have a question about a specific copyright issue not addressed by this guide, the Libraries encourage you to seek further advice.

See the “Ask Questions” section below for more resources. 



Ask Questions


If you have questions about this guide, please e-mail the members of the Boston College Libraries Scholarly Communication Committee.

If you have questions about a basic copyright issue encountered in your work, and do not find adequate help in this guide, please consult the subject liaison for your department first.

If you have a question regarding the University’s policies regarding copyright, please contact the Office of Technology Transfer and Licensing at 2-1682.  If you have a question that requires the advice of an attorney, please contact the Office of the General Counsel at 2-0960.   


What is Copyright?

Copyright is a set of rights provided by the laws of the United States
(Title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including
literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, audiovisual and certain other works, including software.

This protection is available to both published and unpublished works that are fixed in a tangible medium.   Copyright does not protect ideas; it protects the expression of ideas.

The law gives the owner of copyright the following exclusive rights:
• To reproduce the work (i.e. to make copies);
• To prepare derivative works (i.e. to make a movie from a book or to translate a work into another language);
• To distribute copies publicly;
• To perform the work publicly (i.e. a play or movie);
• To display the work publicly; and
• In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of
a digital audio transmission.

The owner of the copyright may transfer all or part of these rights to others. See the section on Author Rights.

Subject to some exceptions described in this guide (including fair use), if a person exercises any of these rights in another’s work without permission, the person may be liable for copyright infringement.  

Selected Additional Resources in the Boston College Libraries

  • Fishman, Stephen.: The copyright handbook : what every writer needs to know / . Berkeley, CA : Nolo, 2008. O’Neill Stacks KF2995 .F53 2008
  • Crews, Kenneth: Copyright law for librarians and educators : creative strategies and practical solutions, 2nd ed. Chicago: ALA, 2006 Professional Collection KF2995 .C74 2006
  • Applying fair use in higher education [sound recording] : clearing up the confusion / presented by Lolly Gasaway. [Malvern, Pa.] : Progressive Business Publications, c2008. O’Neill Media Center Stacks KF2994 .A2 A67 2008
    Sound Disc (ca. 70 min.); 4 3/4 in.


This guide has been created by Boston College University Libraries and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. 

More Information

These sites have in-depth information about the issues summarized in this guide:


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