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Copyright Quick Reference Guide

This guide provides basic information on copyright law to help you make sense of your copyright questions.

Copyright exceptions other than fair use

Even though fair use is the most well known exception to copyright, it is not the only one. Below are a few additional exceptions. You can find even more in 17 U.S.C. §§ 107–112.

17 U.S.C. 110(1) and (2): Classroom exceptions

Copyright law has specific exceptions for some types of uses of works associated with teaching.

17 U.S.C. § 110(1) permits the performance or display of works in face-to-face classes at nonprofit schools.

17 U.S.C. § 110(2) permits similar uses of works in online classes. It allows for:

  • The performance of nondramatic literary or musical works
  • The performance of other types of works in reasonable and limited amounts
  • The display of works in amounts that would be comparable to what would be done in a face-to-face class

However, this is subject to a number of qualifications, including:

  • The school must be a government body or a nonprofit educational institution
  • The school must have a copyright policy and provide informational materials that promote compliance with copyright law to faculty, students, and staff
  • The technology used for the online class must reasonably prevent the works from being retained by the user after the class ends and further dissemination of the works
  • The school cannot interfere with technological measures that prevent retention or dissemination

For help determining when you can use copyrighted works under 110(2), check out this great checklist from the University of Texas Copyright Crash Course.

Other copyright exceptions

17 U.S.C. § 108 permits some reproduction by libraries and archives, including:

  • Section 108(b) allows for the reproduction of unpublished works for preservation if the work is in the library collections and not distributed or made available to in digital form outside of the library or archive:
  • Section 108(c) allows for the reproduction of published works for replacement of damaged copies or copies in obsolete formats if the library or archives cannot obtain it at a fair price and if the work is not made available in digital format to the public outside of the library.

17 U.S.C. § 109 is the so-called "first sale rule":

  • Section 109(a) permits owners of lawfully acquired copies of works to sell or otherwise dispose of those works without permission of the creator or current owner of the copyright. This allows you to sell old CDs to second-hand stores, and it allows libraries to lend out the books on their shelves.
  • Section 109(b) narrows the scope of 109 by prohibiting the renting of sound recordings and computer software.

17 U.S.C. § 110 has a number of other exceptions beyond the classroom exception, including:

  • Section 110(5) permits some performances and displays by places like restaurants and cafes, but only using a limited number of speakers and using basic technology.
  • Section 110(7) allows places like music stores to play music to promote sales of the works.
  • Section 110(8) permits performances of works for blind or deaf people, if the performance is made without direct or indirect commercial advantage.

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