Copyright Toolkit

A Brief History of American Copyright


Tip: Click on each date to learn what changed from that legislation or ruling.

Copyright Resources

Copyright can be fascinating, confusing, and overwhelming, often all at the same time. Fortunately, it’s a topic that has been studied and documented to such a point that most of the gray areas have traveled away from the center. The resources below were gathered to assist in better understanding Copyright, reuse rights, and the rights of the intellectual property owner.

Filter, search, and sort to find the information that will best answer your questions. The title of the resource is the link to that resource.

If you’re looking for public domain and creative commons asset sources, including journals, images, video, audio, and text materials, visit Asset Sources.

Circular 15A | Duration of Copyright
A breakdown of the length of copyright depending on when an item was published. U.S. Copyright OfficeLawsCopyright Duration
Copyright Slider
Interactive tool helps determine copyright status of an item first published in the United States based on the first date of publication and other critera. American Library AssociationAssessment ToolsCopyright (General)
Circular 92
Chapter 1 | Subject Matter and Scope of Copyright
Nuts and bolts of copyright scope, this is a primary source. This chapter contains information on compilations, derivative works, national origin, restored works, government works, exclusive rights, fair use, reproduction by libraries, performances, recordings, computer programs, and more. U.S. Copyright OfficeLawsCopyright Scope
Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries & Archives
Information on the specific limitations and rights granted to libraries and archives regarding copyright. This resource is in layman’s terms and provides useful infographics for schools and public libraries. International Federation of Library Associations and InstitutionsLibraries & ArchivesCopyright Exceptions
Digital Image Rights Computator (DIRC)
Interactive tool to assess the intellectual property status of a specific image. Visual Resources AssociationAssessment ToolsGraphics
Public Domain Sherpa
Web site that provides information on finding and using public domain material. This information is specific to the laws of the United States. Public Domain SherpaGuidesPublic Domain
Copyright Genie
Helps determine copyright status and calculate the terms of protection of any item. Following the interactive assessment, the site delivers an electronic record with the assessment results. American Library AssociationAssessment ToolsCopyright (General)
Know your Copy Rights
Copyright information specific for academic stakeholders and instructional librarians. This source contains insight on Fair Use, linking instead of copying, and displaying works in classrooms. Association of Research LibrariesAcademiaFair Use
Copyright Timeline
A list of significant dates in the history of copyright in America. Association of Research LibrariesLawsCopyright (General)
Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)
Database of Open Access resources and data for research and educational purposes. Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources CoalitionAcademiaOpen Access
Open Access Directory
Wiki with links and guidance on Open Access including educational materials, lists, and discussion forums. Simmons UniversityAcademiaOpen Access
Circular 92
Appendix B | The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998
The full copy of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act including information on the WIPO Treaties Implementation. U.S. Copyright Office LawsDMCA
Circular 92
Appendix A | The Copyright Act of 1976
Appendix A, the transitional and supplementary provisions to the Copyright Act of 1976, covers the sale of duplicate plates, and the establishment of the American Television and Radio Archives, among others. U.S. Copyright OfficeLawsCopyright (General)
Circular 92
Chapter 12 | Copyright Protection and Management Systems
Information on the circumvention of copyright protection systems and the integrity of copyright management information. U.S. Copyright OfficeLawsCopyright Technology
Circular 92
Chapter 11 | Sound Recordings and Music Videos
Limitation on what a person can do with audio files, sound recordings, and music videos. This was generated from the Uruguay Round Agreements Act in 1994. U.S. Copyright OfficeLawsAudio
Circular 92
Chapter 10 | Digital Audio Recording Devices and Media
An amendment borne from the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, this defines approved recordable digital formats and establishes copy protection technology U.S. Copyright OfficeLawsAudio
Circular 92
Chapter 3 | Duration of Copyright
Complete information on the length of copyright based on different criteria. See Circular 15A for a concise version of this Statute. U.S. Copyright OfficeLawsCopyright Duration
Circular 92
Chapter 2 | Copyright Ownership and Transfer
Information on the ownership of the copyright and the transfer of that right to other individuals. U.S. Copyright OfficeLawsCopyright Ownership
Charts & Tools
A useful collection of external tools and sources collected by Stanford Libraries. Stanford University LibrariesAssessment ToolsCopyright (General)
Portal: United States Copyright Case Law
A wiki list of case law and court rulings that have resulted in further definition of copyright. Included in the list are the important finding from each case. WikiSourceLawsCopyright (General)
Fair Use Checklist
A general guide to the benefits and four factors of Fair Use, along with a pdf checklist. Columbia University LibrariesAssessment ToolsFair Use
Copyright Checkpoint
An interactive Q&A tool to help assess the copyright of visual resources. ArtstorAssessment ToolsGraphics
Copyright Crash Course
A comprehensive guide. Learning modules cover finding IP owner, fair use, TEACH Act, and downloadable forms.University of Texas LibrariesGuidesCopyright (General)
Copyright Duration Diagram 
An easy to follow flowchart to determine if an object is in copyright.Public Domain SherpaAssessment ToolsCopyright (General)
Exception for Instructors in the U.S. Copyright Law
Interactive tool that returns a recommendation on whether or not your use-case supports a fair use or TEACH Act American Library AssociationAssessment ToolsCopyright Exceptions
CopyTalk Webinars
An archive of webinars on specific copyright topics that include fair use, creative commons, digital rights, and the public domain. American Library AssociationGuidesCopyright (General)
The Online Books Page
A quick and easy FAQ that guides the user on considerations of whether a book can be posted online and includes information on how to find a copyright owner and determine whether a work is in the public domain. This document also contains information on international copyright laws. University of Pennsylvania LibrariesGuidesPrinted Material
Center for the Study of the Public Domain
A collection of public domain sources, information, and articles about fostering a culture of intellectual freedom. Duke UniversityGuidesPublic Domain
Public Domain Review
Journal highlighting works in the public domain.Public Domain ReviewArticle/JournalPublic Domain
Chapter One: Creators, by Lawrence Lessig
Mr. Lessig discusses copyright issues around the Disney empire and the idea around free culture and intellectual​ property. AuthoramaArticle/JournalPublic Domain
Principles and Practices for Licensing Electronic Resources
Geared for library procurement, this is an easy to read list of best practices. Sections include licensing preparedness, license components, authorized use, copyright, archiving, usage tracking, termination/renewal, and dispute resolution. Also included is a checklist for licensing, a list of resources for licensing terms and sample agreements, and a list of relevant articles. American Association of Law LibrariesGuides Licensing
Challenges to Licensing from Some Publishers
Information on the licensed content providers engaged with the UC system, including a breakdown of the status on past and current licensing challenges. Included on this site is a licensing toolkit with a checklist, letter of intent, and technical guidelines. California Digital LibraryGuides Licensing
Copyright Catalog
Search copyright information on works from 1978 to present. U.S. Copyright OfficeAssessment ToolsCopyright (General)
Copyright Research
Publication from the Copyright and Fair Use Center at Stanford on how to track down a copyright owner. Stanford University LibrariesGuides Copyright (General)
Best Practices for Locating Copyright Owners of Photographic and Visual Art
Excellent guide if a user is looking for an image’s copyright owner. The page includes a number of useful links to databases that assist in the search. American Society of Picture ProfessionalsGuides Graphics
MPA Copyright Search
A guide for locating the publisher of a piece of music. The page includes links to external databases. Music Publishers Association of the United StatesGuides Music
The Campus Guide to Copyright Compliance
A guide to help academic institutions answer copyright questions relevant to their use-case. The guide also includes a quiz to test your copyright knowledge.Copyright Clearance CenterLibraries & ArchivesCopyright (General)
Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use of Collections Containing Orphan Works for Libraries, Archives, and other Memory Institutions
A guide for repositories on applying fair use in collections with orphan works. Center for Media and Social ImpactLibraries & ArchivesOrphan Works
Victory for Users: Librarian of Congress Renews and Expands Protections for Fair Uses
A breakdown of the significant changes to DMCA among the 2015 exceptions​. Electronic Frontier FoundationArticle/JournalDMCA
Good News on DMCA Exemptions from the Copyright Office
A synopsis of the changes to DMCA among the 2018 rulings. Center for Media and Social ImpactArticle/JournalDMCA
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video
A guide to help online video creators navigate fair use. Center for Media and Social ImpactGuides Film
Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use
Defines what documentary filmmakers consider the ​reasonable application of fair use, and clearly defines the doctrine to filmmakers can use it with confidence. Center for Media and Social ImpactGuides Film
Copyright for Music Librarians
A Q&A style source with information on music copyright. The site contains a disclaimer that some information might be out of date. Music Library AssociationGuides Music
Music Copyright Infringement Resource
Information about music copyright infringement cases from the mid-nineteenth century through today, from the United States as well as foreign jurisdictions. George Washington University Law LibraryLawsMusic
Orphan Works Due Diligence Worksheet
A spreadsheet template to use when documenting due diligence work to identify the owner of an orphan work. (launches Google Doc)Assessment ToolsOrphan Works
Selection Procedures for Digitisation
Points to consider when selecting materials for a digitization project. JISC Digital MediaLibraries & ArchivesDigitization
Deciding to Digitise
Pre-digitization considerations that should be weighed by resource management staff considering digitization of a collection. JISC Digital MediaLibraries & ArchivesDigitization
Intellectual Property Considerations
Archived article with overview of Intellectual Property Rights, a description of different license types, and a series of links to OER Resources. JISC Digital MediaGuides Open Access
A searchable database of scholarly publication journals’ copyright policies and self-archiving rules. AcademiaPublications
Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine
An interactive utility that will allow you to generate a PDF form that you can attach to a journal publication’s copyright agreement so make sure you retain your desired rights. Creative CommonsAcademiaCreative Commons
Creative Commons Licenses
An overview of the Creative Commons license options and what each of those options mean for republishing rights and rights retention. Creative CommonsGuides Creative Commons
Open Access Overview
Overview of the rights retention and reuse allowed on items published under Open Access, with a focus on peer-reviewed research articles. Suber, PeterAcademiaOpen Access
Open Access Explained! 
Animated video that explains the concept of Open Access and the benefits to society Open Access allows. Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD)AcademiaOpen Access
Fair Use
Chapter 3 of From The Librarian’s Guide to Intellectual Property in the Digital Age: Copyrights, Patents, and Trademarks by Timothy Lee Wherry. Copyright 2002 by the American Library Association. American Library AssociationGuides Fair Use
Share this Post
Your URL copied