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Copyright & Intellectual Property: Copyright Overview

Information about copyright & intellectual property

Copyright Law

Copyright is explained as “a form of protection 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, and certain other intellectual works” by the United States Copyright Office. This protection is applied to both published and unpublished works. 

When it comes to copying material, what is possible is very different from what is legal. In these days of emailed articles and electronic reserves, it is up to all members of the SUA community to know and abide by the copyright laws. Individuals breaking the copyright rules risk exposing the university and themselves to large fines. Willful copyright infringement carries a fine of up to $150,000 in civil statutory damages per item in the academic environment where there is no commercial gain (17 U.S.C. § 504 (c)(2)). 

Although all library staff and patrons are advised to make a good faith effort and exercise good judgment to comply with the law, the responsibility of compliance rests with each individual. It is in the SUA community’s interest as authors and prospective authors to respect copyright restrictions. The copyright law guides library service policies and procedures. However, these policies do not have the force of law. 

Permitted Use: No Permission Required

The library pays annual institutional subscription fees for the SUA community to access electronic resources. As authorized users, current SUA students and employees are allowed to use the information for private study or share the link to the work with other authorized users without seeking permission. Such uses are permitted in the license agreement.

When information is accessible from a free website or a database subscribed to by the library, linking is the best practice. Because no copy is made in the process of linking, there is no need for concern about the copyright law. When sharing the information with other authorized users, providing a complete citation including a persistent Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is encouraged. The library staff offers help to anyone who wishes to obtain the durable URL for linking and sharing purposes.


The 1976 Copyright Act gives the copyright holders the following exclusive rights: the rights to reproduce, modify, distribute, publicly perform, and publicly display their work.

Others need permission from the copyright holder, pay for these rights, or qualify for an exemption. The following exemptions apply to us, and ach is explained in this guide. Click the links below or the tabs on the top.