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Copyright & Fair Use

This guide provides a general overview of copyright issues.

Exceptions to Copyright

As long as there has been copyright, there have been exceptions to copyright - especially when those exceptions benefit society as a whole.  Education is a huge benefit for society, so these exceptions have a lot of impact at an institution like Widener University.  Copyright Law is under Title 17 of the United States Code, this page will refer to sections in this title, as appropriate.

Fair Use is outlined in Section 107 of Title 17.  It is discussed on the "Start Here" page of this guide under "What is Fair Use?"

Performance or Display in Face-to-Face Classes

Section 110 (1) of Title 17 outlines the copyright exemptions for in-person performances and displays in academic settings.  This includes reading aloud and showing movies and other audiovisual materials as long as:

  1. The performance or display occurs in the course of face-to-face teaching in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction
  2. The copy of the copyrighted work has been obtained legally

The TEACH Act - Copyrighted Materials in Distance Education

Section 110 (2) of Title 17 is known as The TEACH Act and covers the use of copyrighted works for distance education.  In order to be eligible for The TEACH Act, the use must meet these requirements:

  • The use must be part of mediated instructional activities
  • The use must be limited to a specific number of students enrolled in a specific class
  • There can be no admission charge
  • The use must not include the transmission of textbook materials, materials "typically purchased or acquired by students," or works developed specifically for online uses

There are additional stipulations about how much of a work can be used under The TEACH Act.  For more information, contact Kristina Dorsett (

Exceptions for Libraries & Archives

Section 108 of Title 17 outlines the reproduction rights given to libraries and archives.  This is how Wolfgram, and other libraries, are able to make copies of materials for our users and share those copies with other users at other institutions. 

The library is allowed to make one copy of a copyrighted work to distribute under these specific conditions:

  • The reproduction does not influence the commercial advantage of the original work
  • The library is open to the public OR available to researchers both within and outside the affiliated institution
  • The copy has a notice saying that the original work may be protected by copyright

The library is allowed to make three copies of a copyrighted work under these specific conditions:

  • Unpublished works are only reproduced for the purposes of preservation and security or for deposit for research use if:
    • the work is already in the library's collection
    • digital reproductions are not made available to the public
  • Published works are only reproduced to replace a copy that is damaged, deteriorating, lost, or obsolete if:
    • an unused replacement can't be purchased at a fair price
    • digital reproductions are not made available to the public

Libraries and archives are allowed to make copies from their collection for patrons of another library or archive as long as it is used for private study, scholarship, or research.  We call this Inter-Library Loan (ILL).  More information about this service can be found in the Inter-Library Loan Guide.