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George Mason University Infoguides | University Libraries
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Copyright Question Framework

A step-by-step approach to analyzing most copyright questions

What are Copyright Exceptions?

Copyright law limits the exclusive monopoly it grants authors in several ways. It grants exceptions for many of the reproduction activities typically performed by libraries and for performance and display uses typically practiced for in-person classroom instruction. If all of the code’s conditions are met, such specific uses are not copyright infringements.

The Classroom Use Exception

Copyright law places a high value on educational uses. The Classroom Use Exemption (17 U.S.C. §110(1)) only applies in very limited situations, but where it does apply, it gives some pretty clear rights.

In order to determine whether your use applies to this exception, use the Exceptions for Instructors in U.S. Copyright Tool.

Other Exceptions

There are lots of other exceptions, exemptions, and limitations in copyright. A few interesting examples:

  • Libraries are allowed to provide copiers and other reproduction equipment without being liable for users' copying. Commercial copy shops, by contrast, may be liable for any infringing copies made on their machines.
  • Small businesses are allowed to have radios and TVs where customers can see and hear them - under certain conditions. If not for this exception, the TVs and radios might constitute unauthorized public performances!
  • Music stores are allowed to play the music they're selling, in order to promote sales.