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Copyright Information Center

Guide to using copyrighted material in course content at Hofstra University.

Text of the Copyright Law

Title 17 of the United States Code (the Copyright Act of 1976) is 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, codifies the doctrine of "fair use," and for most new copyrights adopts a term based on the date of the author's death. The complete text of the code with historical notes is available from Cornell Law.

For works published in the United States, copyright generally lasts for 70 years after the death of the author. Cornell University Library maintains a useful chart for determining whether a work is in the public domain.

Useful Sources

Helpful ebooks:

Gasaway, Laura N. Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals : From the Columns of Against the Grain. West Lafayette, Ind: Purdue University Press, 2013.

Crews, Kenneth. Copyright law for librarians and educators : creative strategies and practical solutionsAmerican Library Association, 2020.

Recommended web resource:

Understanding fair use (University of Minnesota)


Opportunities for Learning

Experts from Duke, Emory, and UNC-Chapel Hill have made two useful MOOCs available through Coursera:

  • Copyright for Educators & Librarians This course is a professional development opportunity designed to provide a basic introduction to US copyright law.
  • Copyright for Multimedia  This course addresses copyright questions about different formats (data, images, music and video).  Sometimes the law specifically distinguishes between these different formats, and in most cases there are media-specific considerations that impact a copyright analysis.  

Under the auspices of Harvard Law School, the HarvardX distance-learning initiative, and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, CopyrightX is a twelve-week networked course that has been offered annually from January to May since 2013. The course is led by William Fisher, WilmerHale Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Harvard Law School.  He developed the pedagogy of the course, prepared the recorded lectures, and selected and edited the reading materials. CopyrightX explores the current law of copyright; the impact of that law on art, entertainment, and industry; and the ongoing debates concerning how the law should be reformed. 

Additional Resources

Still interested? You can find literally thousands of peer-reviewed articles on copyright and fair use in Hofstra University Library databases. This one is particularly well-known:

Leval, Pierre N. “Toward a Fair Use Standard”Harvard Law Review 103.5 (1990): 1105–1136. (Pierre Leval is a United States Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This article is recognized as an influential work of scholarship arguing that the transformativeness of a work, discussed in the first fair use factor, is the most critical element of the fair use analysis.)


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