1. Copyright law, current thinking and practice related to intellectual property rights, and even local computer use policies are constantly changing. Given this swirl of law, practice, and policy, engaging in scholarly or instructional activity while maintaining academic integrity and respecting the property of others can be quite a challenge, indeed.
  2. An exhaustive statement on copyright law is not possible here, so some general concepts and rules of thumb are presented instead.
  3. Much of the material below is drawn from the following sources, which can also serve as resources for elaboration and up-to-date information:
    1. “The Library of Congress-U.S. Copyright Office,” at
    2. Stanford University Library’s “Copyright and Fair Use” website, at
    3. Pacific Lutheran University policies and procedures, at
    4. (computer use policy)
    5. (statement on academic integrity)
    6. (from library page, navigate to course reserves section)
    7. Copyright Clearance Center, at  Section


  1. Intellectual property laws generally hold that works created by individuals are protected for the life of the author plus 70 years. Commissioned or hired work may be copyrighted for 95 years after initial publication or 120 years after the date of creation, whichever is shorter. Material not protected by copyright law includes works that lack originality (e.g., a phone book), U.S. government publications, facts, and other items in the public domain.
  2. Fair use is for the most part a set of guidelines that attempt to implement various legal provisions for limited use of protected intellectual property without permission of the author or creator. “Educational fair use” encompasses the reproduction of protected works for classroom and other educational uses. Generally speaking, all material may be cited and quoted with attribution, but only limited portions of an article or book may be reproduced without permission. Just how much of a work may be reproduced under the aegis of educational fair use is a major area of contention. Up to one chapter from a book and up to one article from a journal issue seems to be a cautious, legally conservative limit.
  3. Factors for gauging fair use, as established in recent legal proceedings, include a) purpose and character of the use, b) the nature of the copyrighted work, c) the amount and substantiality of the portion used, and d) the effect of the use on the potential market for the work or value of the work.
  4. Individual liability for infringement of copyright is well established in the law. Faculty are responsible for their own actions under the law and should not assume they are less vulnerable than the university, or that the university is a shield of some sort.


  1. Photocopying seems to be very safe ground at no more than one article from a journal issue and no more than one chapter from a book. More than these amounts becomes progressively tenuous.
  2. Coursepacks have become a battleground for publishers and educators over the principles of educational fair use and application of the factors for fair use, especially effect on markets. Production of a coursepack without copyright clearance for all copyrighted material is risky business these days.
  3. Digitizing a printed article, chapter, or image remains a murky area. Publishers do not like it because, they claim, it goes beyond usual fair use by changing to a format that more readily affects potential market through easy electronic distribution and unlimited duplication. Limited access and duration of availability seem to be circumstances tolerable to many publishers, circumstances that are offered by the university’s electronic course reserves service.


Procedures for arranging both print and electronic course reserves, additional information on copyright law and guidelines, and aids for acquiring copyright clearance when needed are available at the PLU course reserves web pages. From the library gateway at, navigate to the course reserves section for links to these and many other related resources.