ELI, Electronic Library Initiatives

Copyright Circulars

These provide a basic set of guidelines for understanding copyright in the context of digital course support projects. These are general guides to help you understand the law. If, after reading the guides, you still have questions about a specific use, click here for an email contact form.

Circular 1: is it copyrighted [pdf]

Circular 2: fair use guidelines [pdf]

Circular 3: licensing resources [pdf]

For Further Reading

Nolo Press publishes books about the law for non-lawyers. These "plain english" guides are a good introduction to legal concepts and a great place to start learning more about copyright. (Morris = Yale University Law Library online catalog.)

Some suggested Library of Congress Subject Headings for doing your own research in Orbis or in Morris.

  • copyright -- united states -- popular works
  • copyright licenses
  • intellectual property
  • industrial property
  • legal deposit of books, etc

To do more in-depth research, try these books, available in the Yale University Law library.

Miller, Arthur and Michael H. Davis Intellectual Property: Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright in a Nutshell.

The Nutshell series is the Cliff's Notes of law school. This small 471-page paperback has a good introduction to all types of intellectual property. It is written by a reputable law professor and is a handy reference. It will not provide an nuanced understanding of all the element of copyright law, but will be helpful in gaining an overview of intellectual property law generally.

Nimmer, Melville and David Nimmer, Nimmer on Copyright: A Treatise on the Law of Literary, Musical and Artisitic Property, and the Protection of Ideas.

Not for the faint of heart, this ten volume looseleaf set is updated at least twice a year. Attorneys are the intended audience, but the language is not so impenetrable as to make it unfriendly to the determined lay reader. This is the standard treatise on U.S. copyright law and works best for researching a specific question on a point of law.

Periodical and journal literature is a good way to keep up with developments in intellectual property laws.

Noted authors to look for in the legal periodical literature are Pamela Samuelson, David Nimmer, Marybeth Peters and Lawrence Lessig. Search LegalTrac (through iConn or at the Law School) or WilsonWeb's Index to Legal Periodicals and Books for periodical articles. The full text of some may be avilable on Lexis Academic or Hein Online. All should be available in print at the Law Library.

Library trade magazines and web sites cover copyright law developments. American Libraries and AALL Spectrum are good sources for current awareness, as are the ALA and AALL Washington Office web sites.

The United States Copyright Office in the Library of Congress runs an email list for those who want to stay current with changes in the copyright law. You can sign up for this relatively low-traffic list at copyright.gov, just click on NewsNet under What's New.


University of Texas' "Crash Course in Copyright"


UNC expert Lolly Gassaway's site(scroll down to "copyright" section)

Ask a copyright question

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