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Copyright @ Fontbonne University: Copyright Law

Questions about Copyright and Fair Use at Fontbonne? Here you can get an overview of the basics and find out where to go to learn more. Also covers public domain, the TEACH Act, peer-to-peer file sharing, and University policy information.


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The purpose of this guide is to provide faculty, staff, and students at Fontbonne University with an understanding of copyright law.


While copyright issues can be complex, everyone needs to understand the basics. Failure to comply with copyright law can lead to substantial legal penalties for both you and the university. This guide explores copyright, fair use, public domain, the TEACH Act, peer-to-peer file sharing and University policy information for faculty, staff, and students. Details on course reserves and getting permissions when needed can also be found in this LibGuide.



E-mail, blogs, wikis, and other digital content (including content from the internet) are copyright protected and may require permission for use. Just because it's ONLINE doesn't mean it's free to use. Check the Terms of Use on the site to determine how you can use it.

@ the Library

See the Go Deeper: Books / Websites tab  on this LibGuide for more resources.

Copyright Law Defined

Copyright law, as defined in Title 17 of the United States Code, protects "original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression" for a limited period. Copyright protection affords the creator the legal right to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform and publicly display their works. Copyright applies both to traditional media (books, records, etc.) and to digital media (electronic journals, web sites, etc.) and protects anything set in a fixed format, including, but not limited to, the following:

  1. literary works
  2. musical works
  3. dramatic works
  4. pantomimes and choreographic works
  5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  7. sound recordings
  8. architectural works

Ownership of a copyrighted work includes the right to control the use of that work during the term of the copyright. Use of such work by others requires either permission from the author or reliance on an exemption to the law, such as the fair use provision. Failure to do one or the other will expose the user to a claim of copyright infringement for which the law provides remedies including payment of money damages to the copyright owner.

Copyright law does not protect ideas, data or facts.

Duration of Copyright

In the U.S., the general rule of copyright duration for a work created on or after January 1, 1978 is the author's life plus 70 years after the author's death. This is often referred to as "life-plus-70". Works created by companies or other types of organizations generally have a copyright term of 95 years. Copyright durations vary for works created before January 1, 1978. Once a work no longer carries copyright protection it passes into the Public Domain meaning it is not protected by copyright law and may be used freely without the need to obtain the permission of the creator.

This can get confusing, so for assistance in determining whether an item is under copyright protection, use this guide:

Outreach & Archives

Rebecca van Kniest's picture
Rebecca van Kniest
Taylor Library 102
Fontbonne University
6800 Wydown Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63105


The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a curriculum for teaching copyright and its components.

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