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Copyright and Plagiarism: Copyright

Basic information about copyright, fair use, and plagarism


Understanding copyright issues is challenging and often confusing.  This guide is intended to help you explore some of the many issues that may arise in the course of your work.  

Note that this is a guide to copyright laws and issues generated by librarians at the Malone library.  Information found in this guide is not intended to be legal advice.

Please call or email the library with any comments, suggestions, and questions.


Determining copyright

What is copyright

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to authors. The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to do and authorize the following:

  • To reproduce the work;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • To prohibit other persons from using the work without permission;
  • To perform the work publicly.

Copyright protection covers both published and unpublished works as well as out-of-print materials. 

Facts, ideas, procedures, processes, systems, concepts, principles or discoveries cannot be copyrighted.  However, some of these can be protected by patent or trade secret laws.

Copyright protection currently lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.  If there is more than one author copyright protection lasts for the life of the last author's death plus 70 years.  Copyright protection for materials created by a business may last for 95 years from publication.  

Print Resources

Books on copyright at the Malone library

Bound By Law

The production and distribution of this book were made possible by support from the Rockefeller, MacArthur and Ford Foundations. It is a project of Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain, which focuses on the delicate balance between intellectual property and the public domain - the realm of material that is free to use without permission or payment.  This book is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. CLICK ON IMAGE TO GAIN ACCESS AND READ OR DOWNLOAD A COPY.

Copyright in the Library

Copyright in the library is a set of short articles that explain each of the law's special privileges and the conditions under which libraries enjoy them.

Guide Images

Manyof the images used throughtout this guide were selected from Google images, unless noted otherwise.