Copyright and Fair Use policy

Consistent with its mission and honor policy, Bluffton University is committed to upholding the highest standards regarding copyright and fair use in the classroom as well as the entire Bluffton University community.   

In order to meet these expectations, it is imperative that all members of the college community adhere to the provisions of the United States Copyright Law and be aware of Fair Use and how it is applied on the campus. 

Members of the Bluffton University community who willfully disregard the copyright policy do so at their own risk and assume all liability. Departments/faculty/students who secure permission(s) for an event they are sponsoring are required to maintain a record of such permission(s). 

Information and Resources
The following information and resources for copyright are provided to Bluffton University faculty, staff and students for their use. When questions arise about where to find information for particular questions on copyright or fair use, please contact the Research and Information Desk at Musselman Library (email: or call 419 358 3450).

What Is Copyright? 
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

    • To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
    • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
    • To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending;
    • To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic and choreographic works, pantomimes and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
    • To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic and choreographic works, pantomimes and pictorial, graphic or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and
    • In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

What Works Are Protected?
Copyright protects original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device. Copyrightable works include the following categories:

  • literary works
  • musical works, including any accompanying words
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works
  • computer programs and most compilations that may be registered as literary works
  • maps and architectural plans that may be registered as pictorial, graphic and sculptural works

What Is Not Protected by Copyright?
Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others:

    • Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded)
    • Titles, names, short phrases and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents
    • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation or illustration
    • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources)
    • >>>additional information

What is Fair Use?
Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Whenever there are questions or concerns about possible infringement, contact the copyright holder.