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Copyright Law

Basic Copyright

Exemptions to Copyright Law

The following exemptions to copyright law are commonly used in support of the educational mission for higher education institutions: Fair Use, DMCA, and the TEACH Act.

Fair Use - An Exemption to Copyright Law

"Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission" (U.S. Copyright Office, 2012).

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)


The 1998 TEACH Act provides some much needed expansion of privileges for those learning and teaching in the online environment. When applying extemptions to works protected by copyright use the TEACH Act first and then consider Fair Use.